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Robert Ridgway’s Colour Standards and Colour Nomenclature


Sunday, March 4, 2018

 

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Robert Ridgway (Illinois, 1850-1926) was an ornithologist who, next to hundreds of publications on bird species, wrote two books on color-classification. In the first book, A Nomenclature of Colors for Naturalists (1886), was relatively simple, but already gave 186 colors their own names, which was different to how colors were described at that time; usually they were named and described subjectively.

Looking for a way to create a more advanced and expanded work, Ridgway published his second book in 1912: Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, with 1,115 new names for colors. This way it was a lot easier to communicate about specific colors between taxonomists in all kinds of scientific fields. Ridgway’s system is still used a lot in taxonomy to this day.

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The figure above shows how Ridgway visualized his coloursystem. One could imagine a two-dimensional, straight line, which has a lightness-gradient, going from white to black. This line doesn’t contain any colour, but as soon as it’s imagined as a three-dimensional shape, the line is surrounded by all 1,115 colours. The colours Ridgway specified were split up in thirty-six individuals, called the “pure colours”. The different teints in between the white, black, and “pure colour”, were all presented and named on the fifty-three hand-painted colourplates (as shown below).

https://archive.org/details/mobot31753002026018

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