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ALBERT H. MUNSELL: A SENSE OF COLOR AT THE INTERFACE OF ART AND SCIENCE

Landa, Edward R.

Soils Issues

The color theory conceived and commercialized by Albert H. Munsell (1858–1918) has become a universal part of the lexicon of soil science. An American painter noted for his seascapes and portraits, he had a long-standing interest in the description of color. Munsell began studies aimed at standardizing color description, using hue, value, and chroma scales, around 1898. His landmark treatise, “A Color Notation,” was published in 1905. Munsell died about 30 years before his color charts came into widespread use in soil survey programs in the United States. Dorothy Nickerson, who began her career as secretary and laboratory assistant to Munsell’s son, and later spent 37 years at USDA as a color-science specialist, did much to adapt the Munsell Color System to soil-color usage. The legacy of color research pioneered by A.H. Munsell is honored today by the Munsell Color Science Laboratory established in 1983 at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

U.S. Geological Survey, 430 National Center, Reston VA 20192. E-mail: erlanda@usgs.gov

Received July 15, 2003; accepted October 21, 2003.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.