Was Homer Colour-Blind?

Abstract

UPON reading Dr. Pole's two papers (NATURE, vol. xviii. pp. 676, 700) my first feeling was to ask: “But how could ‘The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle’ know anything at all about colour?” Presuming, however, that the tradition of his blindness might be unwarranted, and further, that it may be a mistake to suppose, as many do, that the “Iliad” is a collection of rhapsodies by different poets, I again asked myself: “Are there in Homer more anomalies in the nomenclature of colours than may be accounted for by the vague use of words? Are there more than we should find in this country among uneducated men of the labouring class?” About two years ago I made extensive inquiry as to the prevalence of colour-blindness among children, and in the village schools of this part of Somersetshire I found that the girls could name the neutral as well as the other tints readily and correctly, but that many of the boys had but about half-a-dozen words to use, and would refer orange to red or to yellow, and purple to brown or to blue, merely for want of terms; for they could match the test papers with other papers, or with the girls’ dresses.

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