Bock von Wülfingen, Bettina (Ed.). Images of Science. Coloring Achromatic Knowledge. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter. (forthcoming, 2019)
From amazingly colorful antique relics to the attempts to standardize colors in biomedical imaging – color is gaining in relevance in the sciences. Yet the epistemic role of color, its long-standing neglect due to historic symbolic, in part gendered, ascriptions, and the function of color in visualizations for internal scientific use have not received much attention in the sciences and humanities to date. This is especially the case for non-mimetic color use. With the term non-mimetic we refer to colors that are not applied to mimic colors of nature (such as the sky blue, urine, or plant colors) but are of (sometimes hidden and unintended) semiotic relevance. The internal use of color in the sciences raises different epistemological questions to those that arise with images for external communication. The choice and symbolism of color in the latter case is guided to a greater degree by a need for simplification and considerations as to the expectations of a broader public. Colored images for internal scientific use emerge during the research process itself (as a medium for self-reflection) or are produced in appliances and used for intersubjective communication and to obtain feedback from the scientific community. Digital publishing has enhanced the use of color in scientific images, in contrast to the costly use of color in print media, whilst the globalization of the scientific community challenges the idea of universal color symbolism. Meanwhile standardization of color applications in scientific images seldom occurred and occurs, leaving a broad diversity of color symbolism within fields. All this raises the need for color awareness. The history of the ontology of color has already gained some attention in history of science. It is of course not to disentangle from its meaningful use or non-use. Still, the session rather focuses on the meaningful application of color and its interpretation by the sciences – and the history of such theorizing. It explores the color conventions and strategies in scientific images that predominate today as well as in historical perspective and across disciplines. This encompasses the issue of the neglect of color as an object of scientific self-reflection and as an object of the humanities’ research on the sciences. In brief: in this session we investigate the epistemic dimensions of color in the sciences, across disciplines and across history: How was the use of color understood, what did/do specific colors mean, what did they symbolize, how did this change or what did/does it mean to use color at all, or otherwise what can we say about (historic, contemporary) discussions on the use(fullness) of color in sciences and medicine?
Abstracts of the individual contributions
Bettina Bock von Wülfingen (Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung) Programmatic introduction: What was chromophobia? A short longue durée review of history of arts, science and gender on color- and gender-codes
Alexander Nagel (Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, USA) Research on Color Matters: Towards a Modern Archaeology of Ancient Polychromies
Periodically, throughout the last two hundred centuries, museums allowed for visitors’ imagination to experience the colorful ancient environment. Installations in London, Paris, Munich and Washington, DC until the 1920’s and in more recent decades made references by displaying colorful and often very creative reconstructions, and the museum visitor appreciated being educated about the polychrome pasts of ancient Egypt, Greece and the Middle East. At the same time, methods in measuring and quantifying the extents and scope of ancient monumental polychromy depended on parallel developments in the “hard sciences” which allowed for the scientific examination of the surface of ancient materials. Discoveries such as the seated scribe from Saqqara in 1850, the Augustus statue at Prima Porta in Rome in 1863, or the Korai statues on the Athenian Acropolis in the 1880’s added to our knowledge in the 19th century, yet research on the surface of these monuments was limited to scientists working in fields such as conservation and chemistry and began often much later. By looking closer at conversations between excavators, museum curators and research scientists, this paper will introduce some key individuals in the discourse, reflect upon critical moments of discovery, and discuss ongoing developments and research in the field, which is shaped by a merging of disciplines. Overall, my contribution will call for a contextualization of the archaeology of ancient polychromies.
Aldo Badano (Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA, USA) Color Visualization of Medical Images – Needs and Consistency Approaches
Despite the widespread use of color in the interpretation of medical images, the handling of color is primarily ad hoc due to the lack of standard approaches for optimal visualization. The variability introduced by ad-hoc color treatment of medical images might lead to low reproducibility of quantitative image evaluations and low inter- observer agreement possibly leading to inconsistent diagnostic decisions with a negative impact on patient treatment and prognosis. Medical imaging techniques that rely on pseudo-color presentation include perfusion techniques, diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance, and nuclear imaging. Other modalities use absolute color transfer including digital medical photography and the emerging field of digital whole-slide imaging for surgical pathology. It has furthermore been posited that color scales for non- contrast computed tomography of arterial function improves diagnostic confidence, diagnostic accuracy, and inter-observer agreement with respect to grayscale presentation. Recent research using synthetic and patient images in laboratory and clinical settings indicate that benefits from using specific color scales depend on the modality and is affected by reader training. For instance, quantification and localization of ischemic lesions on computed tomography myocardial perfusion imaging visualized using different color scales was measured to be significantly different among rainbow, hot, and grayscale presentations. In a similar study involving the interpretation of apparent diffusion coefficient maps for prostate cancer, differences were non- significant. Further investigation is necessary to determine if color affects other diagnostic tasks.
Ricardo Cedeño Montaña (Universidad de Antioquia, Columbia) Encoding Color: RGB between signal and signs
A color encoding model describes the transposition of the visible light spectrum into color data, i.e. signals, codewords, and algorithms. In electronic visual media, such a model is the result of transferring the 19-century empirical research on human color vision into technical standards, imaging sensors, and algorithms. This article puts forward a media historical description of the science behind the RGB encoding model and its systematic application for synthesizing colors in electronic visual media. It focuses on how during the 20th century the production of the sensation of colors has been shaped by the implementation of the additive trichromatic theory in analogue and digital technical media. The first part introduces the color-matching functions established during the 1920s to fix the trichromatic theory in a specification in which three discrete stimuli are mixed to produce any color in electronic media. Swinging from the techno-scientific description to the physical implementation in technical systems, the second part focuses on the Bayer Color Filter Array (CFA) that privileges green over the other two components on the principle that such arrangement mimics the human eye perception of colors. The article closes with the encoding algorithms that express in symbols the values of luminance and chrominance signals in order to describe ever larger portions of the visible electromagnetic spectrum for the production of digital color images.
Daniel Baum, (Zuse-Institut Berlin, Working Group Image Analysis in Biology and Materials Science, Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung (Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin) On the Use of Color in Scientific Visualization
Color is often used in visualization as an additional cue to better understand the data being visualized. However, care needs to be taken when applying color since it enormously influences our visual perception. Over the past twenty years, the use of color in scientific visualization has been studied in great detail. This has led, for example, to the design of generally accepted perceptually linear color maps for continuous scalar- valued data as well as color palettes for discrete data. The adequate use of color, however, also depends to a large extend on the task to be carried out. Different tasks might require a different usage of color. When feature detection is the main goal, for example, other color schemes may be appropriate than those that would be considered for an overview of the data. The use of color will also be restricted if three-dimensional objects are the target of the visualization. The rendering of such objects reduces the available color options, for example, lightness and shininess, because those are already required for representing the shape. Hence, in order to use color appropriately in data visualization, the whole parameter space needs to be taken into account.
Ian Lawson (Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) What did color mean in early modern England?
In the seventeenth century, natural philosophers addressed the issue of color with renewed vigor. Historians have generally seen this as prompted by the fact that, as the new mechanical philosophy gained ground over Aristotelian ideas, color phenomena required a new explanation. This misses an important aspect of the interest that several natural philosophers, particularly those of the Royal Society in mid-century England, had in color. In this paper I detail the Royal Society’s Curator of Experiments Robert Hooke’s often overlooked motivations for examining colors in his Micrographia (1665). Hooke was drawing on the artisanal knowledge painters and dyers, with the particular intention of assisting their practice. This is clear from his philosophy of science generally, the examples in his work, and the relationships between his work and that of his colleagues Robert Boyle, William Petty, and Richard Waller. Hooke’s interest in the ontology or theoretical explanation of colors ran only so deep as it assisted him to manipulate them. This insight helps to explain Hooke’s famous disagreement about color with Isaac Newton in the 1670s. Historians who have discussed the controversy admit that Newton and Hooke may have misunderstood or talked past one another in various respects, but little attention has been paid to whether ‘color’ meant the same thing to the two philosophers. Their disagreement reveals, I argue, a distinction between colors considered as objects of perception and considered as objects of manipulation. This distinction was poorly articulated in early modern natural philosophy that was redefining its own methods and terms as the experimental, mechanical approach overturned Aristotelian explanations of natural phenomena.
Bettina Bock von Wülfingen (Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung) Mimetic and Symbolic Colour Use in Scientific Diagrams: Biochemical Pathways
Scientists draw chemical pathways since Kekulés times around the end of the 19th century. Those were reaction pathways entailing only some elements. The terminology „biochemical pathways“ or „metabolic pathway“ begins to appear recently in the 1940s, labelling charts such as the one of the first metabolical path, the Glycolysis, which was then for the first time fully put together. In the following decades more and more charts of different metabolic paths in humans, animals and plants were published. Ultimately, these pathways used specific symbolic colour codes. One of the internationally best known had been set by Gerhard Michal who as a PhD student at Böhringer in 1965 started to draw complete pathways integrating all metabolic paths known in organisms to that day into one map. These were updated in the next editions to come. All were hand-drawn until 2002. The colours used were red, green, blue and the achromatic black for the fleches between the metabolised molecules. Since 2014 a first online-version of this map was published and promoted as ‚interactive’, as different parts could be enlarged. Since the end of the 1990s however, and partly together with new cybernetically informed disciplines such as systems biology, different digital-tools for natural science’s use appeared in publications in print and online. Meanwhile, the natural sciences fields using pathways had gotten more and more diverse, with Asian scholars challenging the European and US-American habits: In 2000 Kanehisa Laboratories from Kyoto, Japan, started offering online metabolic pathways. Operating with a broad palette of pastel colours their biochemical pathways used very different colour semiotics apart from the connection of different maps of different organisms to respective genomic databanks. Focusing on these cases of contrasting and famous, if not iconic, biochemical maps, this talk paper elaborates on diagrammatic traditions of metabolism charts between tube maps and electrical circuits and explores the development of the different colour codes.
Ulrike Boskamp (Institute for Art History, Free University Berlin) Coding and Gendering Color: Scientific, Epistemological, and Aesthetic Discourses in 18th Century France
In his Chromophobia (2000), David Batchelor, following and quoting Charles Blancs Arts du Dessin of 1867, diagnosed a chromophobia in combination with a female gendering of color as „bound up with the fate of Western culture“ (p.22). I would like to argue against this thesis from Batchelor’s inspiring book and show that a simple continuity in the role and status of color in Western culture and thus of chromophobia over the last 500 years cannot be claimed. While a binary and hierarchic construction of genders has clearly structured Western thought far beyond the topic of gender/sex itself, color has not always been on the female and subjugated side. With the spread of Newtonian color theory in the 18th century France, color was not conceptualized in connection with a binary opposite at all, neither in the aesthetic nor in the scientific discourses. As the basis and cause of white light which after Newton claimed to be composed of colored rays, colored light was not at all considered a secondary phenomenon, but the powerful basis of visibility itself. This notion changed at the end of the 18th century when both the subjugation of color and an opposition to it – now not the line, but the „clairobscur“, or light and shade – were reintroduced. Color was re-introduced into a different, but actually chromophobic systematic, now formatted not by physics but by natural history. To reject Bachelor’s claim of an uninterrupted long history of binary gendered chromophobia with which he positions himself in a critical and emancipatory discourse may seem petty in view of the convincing general argument. But to show that this model has historically not been inevitable not only means a correction of historic facts. I consider it liberating, in analogy to the current re-writing of the history of gender, where other than binary constructions are focused on, forming a new pre-history to a non- binary interpretation of the present.
Michael Rossi (University of Chicago) “Green is Refreshing”: Color and Healing in Nineteenth Century Medicine
Among the many meanings of particular colors in the European and American medical literature of the early 19th century, the color “green” was especially associated with qualities of healing, recuperation, and rejuvenation. From manuals on best nursing practices, to treatises on workplace health, to advice for better living, expert and popular healers alike tended to subscribe to the commonplace wisdom that the color green was a salubrious and efficacious way of reviving both flagging spirits and ailing bodies. This paper examines the symbolic, semantic, and practical dimensions of the color green in nineteenth century medicine — from its mimetic associations with nature and growth, to its place in formalizing otherwise occult physiological processes, to its role in regulating visual and bodily health and conduct. Ultimately, the healing properties of the color green for nineteenth century medical practitioners comprised part of a larger attempt to describe a novel relationship between mind and body, and science and sensation. This relationship was required at once to preserve the common-sense distinction between imponderable soul and material corporeality, while allowing for novel epistemologies of the sensing, feeling, thinking body – including (but not limited to) physiology, psychophysics, and (eventually) biomedicine.
Michael Friedman, Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung (Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin) Coloring the fourth dimension? Polytopes and curves at the end of the 19th century
Starting from the 1850s, n- and 4-dimensional spaces were taken into serious mathematical consideration. This prompted questions regarding the visualization of 4- dimensional mathematical objects, being problematic to visualize. I aim to show, focusing on two examples: 4-dimensional polytopes and complex curves, that although these two belonged to different mathematical traditions, the solution that several mathematicians found for the problematic of visualization was via the usage of colour. To consider the first example, as just as in the 3-dimensional space one can find the five convex regular polyhedra (i.e. the Platonic solids), one can find six convex regular 4- dimensional polytopes. Ludwig Schläfli discovered this in 1852, but the question remained – how can one visualize these polytopes. In 1888, Alicia Boole Stott contributed to Charles Howard Hinton’s book A new Era of Thought, describing ways to grasp the fourth dimension. In Hinton’s book, one of the ways to visualize a 4- dimensional cube is via multicolored cubes; when assembled, they could be used to visualize a hypercube in the fourth dimension. Boole Stott was familiar with other models, which represented sections of all the four-dimensional polytopes, and built them accordingly. The question about the visualization of complex curves was answered similarly. During the 1870s, two main approaches existed for visualizing complex curves f(x,y)=0: either considering only the real part of the complex curve in the real plane, or considering the surface embedded in a three-dimensional space obtained from considering x as a complex variable (having two coordinates) and then the real values of y. However, both visualizations were partial, and during the 1880s a solution was proposed by constructing a material model of complex curves: a 3-dimensional material model was built, following the first method, but the model was coloured in order to differentiate between two different points, which looked like as if in a 3-dimensional space they had the same position. I claim that in both cases colour was an essential – though ephemeral – ingredient and made the coloured material objects epistemological ones. It was, one might say, a way to bypass the mathematical “crisis of Anschauung”, i.e. of visualization, when aiming to understand the more abstract mathematical objects.
Dominique Grisard (Swiss Center for Social Research, University of Basel) Pink Science. The Gender History of Color in Psychology
Pink is arguably one of the most overdetermined, symbolically charged colors today. Over the course of the mid to late 20th century it has become synonymous with girlie femininity and (effeminate) homosexuality. As I will show in this article, pink’s gender and sexual symbolism has undergone a process of naturalization, archaization and globalization, so much so in fact that it has come to shape scientific research. My contribution focuses on the appearance of pink in the range of colors studied by psychologists. It will address the history of color in psychology in terms of the gradual appearance of the color pink, in relation to which the absence of pink, but the presence of other colors that were attributed particular raced, gendered meanings function as a meaningful backdrop. I will be able to show how an epistemological interest in pink and blue coincided with children and gender differences becoming central to the study of color.
Jean-François Moreau (University of Paris, France) Raffaele Pisano (University of Lille, France) Jean-Michel Correas (Paris-Descartes University, Paris, France) From Vesale to Pourcelot via Harvey and Pulsed Color Doppler Ultrasound (this is the ESHS session’s abstract, one that is more adapted to the edited volume soon to follow)
For centuries and except on blackboards and positive X-Ray films, anatomists and radiologists used shades of grey with the blood vessel walls in black and the lumen in white. “It has been shown by reason and experiment that blood by the beat of the ventricles flows through the lungs and heart and is pumped to the whole body”, physiologist William Harvey said in 1628. Then, when printers could feature color scales, the oxygenated aortic blood has been colored in red, the caval venous system in blue, the lymphatic one in yellow. Color Doppler real-time digital ultrasound is the only medical imaging technique using blue and red coding for hemodynamics but this doesn’t reflect the O2 blood saturation. The ultrasonic probe recollecting the echoic waves plays the role of the “heart”. In red the wave figures the blood flow coming to the probe, the wave in blue is centrifuge. Moreover the lighter the flow the faster. Heterogeneous structures induce the aliasing phenomenon. Pulsed Doppler ultrasound provides the associated vision of the curve of the blood flow. Artifacts induced by the sonographer malpractice are current causes of misinterpretation of intrinsic or extrinsic syndromes. Skilled dopplerists only are able to “think” Doppler’s language.
Esther Ramharter (Institute for Philosophy, University of Vienna) Color in the interplay of logic and speaking about logic (working title)
Logic may be considered as the purest form of rationality; but it could also be seen, within the domain of rationality, as the discipline where sensual representation, and in particular color, can enter the stage: Logic as a system of written symbols could well use colored signs. As a matter of fact, this does not happen. Instead, it is the discourse about logic, where color finds its place. The aim of this paper is to study the multiple relations between color or color-related terms, on the one hand, and logic or discourse about logic, on the other. A few examples to give an impression of the variety: Gottlob Frege uses ‘Färbung’ to cut off what is not a logical distinction (if two expressions differ only in their ‘Färbung’ —like mutt and dog—, they are logically equivalent). Charles S. Peirce wants colors to be integrated into the formal system of logic, but he himself submits (in this respect) to the usual typesetting of scientific papers and substitutes colors by black patterns. The frequent representations of dihairesis in the middle ages do not display colors directly—the trees, however, which are the universal obligatory pictures, refer to colors by imagination or association. Inherent countermovements can be found, though: in some periods the trees are rather realistic and concrete, whereas in other times they present themselves as abstract schemes. This paper is focused on the different kinds of relationship between symbol, discourse and color obtaining in these and other cases.
Jana Moser, Philipp Meyer (Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig) Color in historic maps (working title, abstract soon to come)