Color as Hue



'Hue' is one of the characteristics of color, it is the name of the color or 'hue family' i.e. red, orange, yellow. For example, if the color of an apple is red then the apple has a red 'hue'.

'Hue families' contain all of the variations of that particular 'hue' or color but what are hue families and where do they come from?

In 1666, due to an outbreak of the plague the Cambridge university closed down temporarily and one of its young and bright students, Sir Isaac Newton, was forced to spend that semester at his home in the country.

Newton's Publication
During this time by accident, Newton discovered the visible spectrum of light at the young age of 24 from a prism that sat in the window. When the sun passed through it, he observed the beam of light separated into multiple colors which looked like a rainbow.He then studied this phenomenon carefully.

He later published his theories in "Opticks," which details the various phenomena, Newton called it the "inflection" of light and the 'color spectrum.'

Today we have a basic understanding that white light contains the all of the colors of the rainbow, which is why we sometimes see a rainbow after it rains and the sun shines through a mist. Sunlight passing through droplets of rain that act like a prism and splits the light into the visible spectrum of colors.

The spectrum appears to make smooth transitions from color to color but, Newton divided the resulting beam into seven distinct 'hue families.' He called out red, orange, yellow, green blue, indigo and violet or the acronym ROYGBIV.

Light Refraction

The eye, just like the ear responds to wavelengths or forms of energy which travel through space & atmosphere. Sir Isaac Newton didn’t realize at the time but he uncovered what we now know today as the Electromagnetic Spectrum and it contains the visible spectrum of light and each 'hue family' has a different wavelength. Most animals see some color but they are red and green color blind. Some insects see ultra violet wavelength, which we can 't see.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Since light contains all of the 'hue families,' when it hits an object, the object absorbs all of the wavelengths except the unique hue that it reflects back to us. For example, an apple absorbs all of the hue and reflects the only red wavelength back to us.

Newton's Color Wheels

Newton wrapped the color spectrum around a wheel and published the first color wheel in his publication "Opticks."  Today physicists agree that there are really only 6 distinct hue families based on their decreasing wavelengths. Indigo was something that Newton included to make the number of hue families equal seven. He chose the number seven as this reflected the Ancient Greek belief that seven is a mystical number. 

The Color Wheel

Hue is the characteristic of color and can be used interchangeable with the name of the color. The human eye can distinguish around ~ 7 million different hues or colors i.e. there are 7 million different wavelengths that we can see within the visible spectrum. 
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