Maxwell’s Birthday

June 2016

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton. Maxwell was also interested in applying his theory of color perception, namely in colour photography. Stemming directly from his psychological work on colour perception: if a sum of any three lights could reproduce any perceivable colour, then colour photographs could be produced with a set of three colored filters. In the course of his 1855 paper, Maxwell proposed that, if three black-and-white photographs of a scene were taken through red, green and blue filters and transparent prints of the images were projected onto a screen using three projectors equipped with similar filters, when superimposed on the screen the result would be perceived by the human eye as a complete reproduction of all the colours in the scene.