A History of Light & Colour Measurement: Science in the by Sean F. Johnston

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By Sean F. Johnston

It is a background of the hidden workings of actual technological know-how - a technical endeavour embedded in a social context. It argues that this 'undisciplined' topic, straddling academia, trade and legislation, will be standard not just of twentieth century technology, yet of its destiny.

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Sharing Bond's conviction of the usefulness of such observations, and building upon the work already done at Harvard College Observatory, his successor Edward Pickering initiated an extensive programme of stellar photometry at Harvard College Observatory when he became director in 1877. Pickering introduced several innovations to convert photometry from a volatile to a sound subject. The first of these was in promulgating a standard. By adopting Pogson's scale of magnitude, and choosing Polaris as the reference star against which all others would be compared, he defined a photometric scale that other workers found straightforward to accept.

And in 1883 Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductive effect, the equivalent phenomenon using visible light. Despite some cross-fertilization of photometry and radiometry during this period42, physical detectors of visible light were largely rejected for reasons discussed below. Radiant heat remained a study distinct from photometry through the 1830s and 1840s, even though it was by then increasingly interpreted as a form of light43. By the 1850s, radiometry was linked to questions of heat transfer and energy, both 'hot' topics at the time44.

In this type, the quantity has a direct relationship with the order of natural numbers. Campbell used the example of illumination to illustrate this class3. Photometry, as employed by various practitioners through the 19th century, could fall into any one of these classes, although the first and second were the most common. The mere ranking provided by class 1 measurement was a characteristic of stellar magnitudes in the first half of the century and earlier. Class 2 ordering of intensities typified usages such as early gas photometry.

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