NPG 3930; Robert Boyle after Johann Kerseboom

Robert Boyle was an Irish alchemist who experimented with many metals (gold, lead, and mecury) as well as gases (Boyle’s Law states that as the pressure of a gas will increase as its volume decreases).

His work on colour, pre-dates Isaac Newton’s and he seems to be one of the first colour theorists to differentiate between additive colour (light) and subtractive colour (pigments). This is of interest to me because the issue I am investigating in Digital Textile Printing is conversion of an image in an additive colour space (the CAD file represented by light mixing on the computer screen) into a subtractive colour space (the printed image comprised of a matrix created from CMYK dyes / inks by the inkjet printer).

Robert Boyle light experiment.jpg

In his publication Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours published in 1664, Boyle sets out his findings on the phenomena of colour including the differences he finds between the colours of objects (reflected light) and spectral colour. Like many theorists he writes about the colours in nature and the changes of colour in shadows and bright light.

His prism experiment, detailed above, was developed upon by Newton. Boyle establishes five colours from the refracted light; purple, blue (blew), green, yellow and red. Boyle also identified that all hues together created white.