When I was a little kid I used to have a kaleidoscope (a cylinder with mirrors in it, at one side there where all kinds of coloured beads and at the other side you could look through it. When you looked through it and turned it round, you saw all kinds of coloured figures.) After I looked through it for the first time I desperately tried to find out how it worked and where all those beautiful coloured figures came from. I understood that it had something to do with light and darkness, because there appeared no coloured image when I put my hand before the side where the light was going into the cylinder. It had also something to do with the beads, because one of my friends had a kaleidoscope without beads (he was always very rude with his toys so think he smashed his kaleidoscope against the wall or something) and it appeared that it didn’t work anymore.

It was during physics class at secondary school that I learned more about colours. We did an experiment with a prism just as Newton did. We had a ray of white light that went through a prism and was projected on a white screen. On the screen we saw the colours of a rainbow.

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With the use of a lens and a second prism we were able to recompose this “rainbow” into white light. My physics teacher told me that the prism decomposed the white light into its spectral colours because all the colours have a different wavelength and thus have a different refrangibility. But still coloured light remains a weird thing to me.

Goethe’s theory of colors
Most people know Johan Wolfgang von Goethe as a famous German writer, but to Goethe himself, his Theory of Colors was the work that he believed had earned him a major place in world history.

“Of whatever I have achieved as a poet I have no high opinion at all,” Goethe said in his Conversations with Eckermann. “There were excellent poets living alongside me, there were even more excellent ones before me, and there will be such poets after me. But that in my century I alone am the one who in the difficult science of color theory knows the truth– that I consider a feather in my cap, and I therefore have a sense of superiority over many.”

The colours of renaissance paintings and the Italian landscape fascinated Goethe. Because of this he wanted to know more about colours and he recalled his study of physics at the university of Leipzig, yet he could not remember the experiment that proved Newton’s theory about colours. Therefore he decided to do such experiments for himself. He borrowed a prism from a friend (C.W. Büttner) and he prepared a room as a camera obscura, covering the one window with a sheet of metal with a small hole in it so that the sunlight could only enter the room through the hole.

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