So intimately are all our ideas of things naterial connected with light, that it is impossible for a human mind to conceive or ?orm any distinct appreciation of this world, Dr the heavens of which it forms a part, and by which it is surrounded, before the issuing Df the Almighty mandate, "Let there be light." The beauty of the fitness of all things is in no way more truly appreciated, than when we consider the diffusion and adaptability of this omnipresent, elemental force. Each beam of the pure, colorless light of day is composed of three distinct rays, the red, the blue, the yellow, and these and their compounds or complimentary colors, form the beams that travel from the sun to us in eight minutes. All nature derives its color from these colored rays, and really there is no such thing as actual color, it is only decomposed Light. Thus the tender, modest violet pushing its tiny loveliness from among the coarser plants on some hedge side, is so constructed that it absorbs all the rays except the violet one, and that it reflects and this reflection is the color of the plant; the hardy old red sandstone cliff absorbs all rays but the one shown in its color, and the same is the case with all created things. This fact of all objects being really colorless, is easily proved by a simple experiment that may be tried by our juvenile readers any winter's evening. (Here we would say that it is our intention to give occasionally, as we have space, special articles with simple experiments, each teaching some philosophical truth for the juveniles' instruction and amusement, these long and dreary winter evenings.) Now then for the experiment : collect as many articles of different colors as you can in a small room, the more glaring the hues, the more astonishing ,the result ; when this is done, pour some alcohol on a plate and throw into it a handful of common salt, light it, and it will burn with a yellow flame, and all the gaudy colors will be gone, nothing but one dead yellow being visible, even the color is taken from the cheeks and dresses of the spectators, all of them appearing a ghastly hue; thus proving that col or depends on light and not light on color.
This article was originally published with the title "Light and Color" in Scientific American 13, 14, 109 (December 1857)