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A star curator at the American Museum of Natural History widens the palette and shows how the physical, natural, and cultural context of colour are inextricably tied to what we see right before our eyes.
Is colour a phenomenon of science or a thing of art? Over the years, colour has dazzled, enhanced, and clarified the world we see, embraced through the experimental palettes of painting, the advent of the colour photograph, Technicolor pictures, colour printing, on and on, a vivid and vibrant celebrated continuum. These turns to represent reality in "living colour" echo our evolutionary reliance on and indeed privileging of colour as a complex and vital form of consumption, classification, and creation. It's everywhere we look, yet do we really know much of anything about it? Finding colour in stars and light, examining the system of classification that determines survival through natural selection, studying the arrival of colour in our universe and as a fulcrum for philosophy, DeSalle's brilliant A Natural History of Color establishes that an understanding of colour on many different levels is at the heart of learning about nature, neurobiology, individualism, even a philosophy of existence. Colour and a fine tuned understanding of it is vital to understanding ourselves and our consciousness.
Rob DeSalle is a curator in the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and professor at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author of The Science of Jurassic Park and the Lost World (with David Lindley, 1997) and the coauthor of Welcome to the Microbiome: Getting to Know the Trillions of Bacteria and Other Microbes In, On, and Around You (2015), among others.