Trichromasy versus colour opponency: The controversy in 19th and 20th century’s colour science and its solution

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To recall in mind one of the most dedicatedly fought discussions in visual science: that about trichromatic versus colour opponent organization of human colour vision.


Literature survey, personal communication


In 19th and early 20th century, the community of colour scientists was divided into followers of Young’s & Helmholtz’s trichromatic theory, and followers of Hering’s colour antagonistic concept. Both parties disposed on convincing arguments. Both confessions (as one is tempted to call them) felt that their particular belief necessarily had to be the truth. Both, in fact, contained truth. The controversy eventually found its solution in the zone theory of v. Kries which subsequently has received overwhelming experimental proof.: trichromasy at receptoral level, colour opponency throughout the postreceptoral network.


Browsing through early colour science discloses surprising ad captivating developments. One is in particular satisfying: the controversy concerning trichromatic versus colour antagonistic organization of colour vision. Eventually both antitheses were proven true and combined to the synthesis of zonal organization of colour visison.

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