As a scientist I have been saddened by the treatment accorded Edwin Land and his work on color vision in the scientific literature. Land is consistently referred to as an ‘inventor’ thus demeaning any ‘science’ that may be associated with his experiments and ideas. I have studied most of Land’s published work and it is characterized by a rarely seen straightforward logic and lucidity (as to description of methods used and results obtained).. truly a hallmark of the scientific method! The work of one other scientist comes to mind in this regard, the writings of the physicist David Bohm.
A device commonly tossed off to demean Land’s work is that ‘most aspects of his demonstrations were already well known’. This is a common thread seen most notably in a paper, to which I was referred by one purporting to speak for ‘vision science’, with the curious title ‘Land! Land!’ (I’ll not even provide the reference as I do not view the paper as in any way to be objective science). This method of obfuscation seems to have existed even in antiquity as noted in the quote that I use from da Vinci:
“Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.”
Leonardo da Vinci
No attempt is made to come to grips with, and actually explain, Land’s anomalous color vision experiments and results that began in 1955 and proceeded until Land’s death. Simply saying that these experiments had been ‘done before’ implies that they need no explanation. But they do!
And now there is an explanation – in the geometric view of light interaction with the retina.
I suggest that anyone interested in color vision actually read Land’s original papers. I obtained a compendium of these from the Rowland Institute in Cambridge, MA (originally founded by Land and now subsumed into Harvard University). A Ms. Holley Perry of that Institute was very kind in sending these to me. I do not know if they are still available but any serious student of vision should try to obtain them. Also instructive is viewing a documentary film made by the BBC in 1988 (‘Colourful Notions’). This film dwells on the subject of the riddle of color constancy in vision and includes a segment where Dr. Land personally demonstrates the essence of his color vision experiments.