[Phylogenetic elements in Goethe's theory of colors].Praxis (Bern 1994). 1996 Jul 16; 85(29-30):911-6.P
Phylogenetic findings in the field of human color vision are compared with Goethe's theory of colors. Goethe's research into nature was often based on his view that whenever you find complex ("mannigfaltige') natural phenomena, there has always been a development from simple phenomena. In this connexion his interest focused on the identification of primordial phenomena ("Urphänomene') and not on the temporal aspects of development. This was also true for his studies of color. Based on erroneous interpretations of prismatic experiments, he put forward the theory that all colors developed from the two primordial colors yellow and blue, which were, according to Goethe, the two "first and simplest colors'. Although some of his assumptions were incorrect, his theory has many similarities with current phylogenetic findings, according to which our color vision is derived from an original perception of two colors, possibly yellow and blue. This similarity needs clarification on an interdisciplinary level as well as research to determine the degree to which Goethe's own physiological condition influenced his study of colors. The author suggests that a reappraisal of this, the largest section of Goethe's scientific work is now necessary.