Goethe Month: Theory of Colours, Day 3 — A rainbow ain’t shit if it ain’t got red in it

Favoritest color in the world. And may I add that this journal is now going to be the first blog entry to get a Pulitzer prize due to my stunning combination of “rainbow” and “shit” in the same sentence?*


While therefore we may assert that the chromatic scale produces an agreeable impression by its ingredient hues, we may here remark that those have been mistaken who have hitherto adduced the rainbow as an example of the entire scale …


… for the chief colour, pure red, is deficient in it, and cannot be produced, since in this phenomenon, as well as in the ordinary prismatic series, the yellow-red and blue-red cannot attain to a union.

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Zur Farbenlehre/Theory of Colours, 1810 transl. Charles Eastlake. John Murray Publishing: 1840. p. 320.)

Take that, Newtonian spectral reasoning. Goethe was all like, “I’m no physicist but guess what? Suck iiiiiit.” Just kidding. They were both kind of right and kind of wrong. And I admit Goethe was slightly wronger.



*Actually once I knew this beagle that ate a half a box of crayons and later on his shit had faint waxy rainbows in its sheen, and I’ve frequently reported this to friends in pretty much exactly that wording (often predicated on only the most tenuous of topical connections — what can I say? It’s a good story and I’m not exactly a class act). So I suppose in truth now I have twice used rainbow and shit in a sentence, it’s just that this is the first time I’ve ever written it down.

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