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12 May

While we’re on the topic of Goethe’s prescience, I’d thought I’d mention one of Goethe’s most important scientific contributions: his analysis of color.Simply put, Goethe argued that our perception of color is a phenomenon of the brain rather than of physics.Furthermore, Goethe held that the eye only perceived three colors (red, yellow and blue) and not the seven displayed by Newton’s prism.

Over at Pure Pedantry, Kara has a nice post on Goethe and game theory.“Insofar as he makes use of his healthy senses,” wrote Goethe, “man himself is the best and most exact scientific instrument possible.The greatest misfortune of modern physics is that its experiments have been set apart from man.” Goethe wanted to correct Newton’s false abstractions.And so, in his Optiks, Newton adroitly described his “proof” of light’s substance, narrating his method in one of the most famous scientific experiments of all time.Wielding only a prism (or so the story goes), Newton described how he created a perfect rainbow out of white light, the rainbow composed of neat and distinct shades.