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The Nagel anomaloscope and seasonal variation of colour vision


IN 1948 the German physicist, Manfred Richter, reported that colour vision has a seasonal variation1,2. For four colour-normal subjects, he found a sinusoidal variation in the proportion of red and green required to match a monochromatic yellow, the equation known as the 'Rayleigh match'3. In summer, subjects required more red in their mixture. The measurements were made with the Nagel anomaloscope, an instrument introduced in 19074,5 and which today, essentially unchanged, remains the definitive clinical instrument for classifying the many phenotypic variations in colour vision. The variation that Richter recorded in the red–green ratio was large (three Nagel units), and it now takes on fresh interest because it is comparable in size to the difference in Nagel settings later reported between normal observers of different genetic types6,7. We have been able to replicate Richter's result, but report here that it is almost certainly instrumental: the Nagel anomaloscope proves to be very sensitive to ambient temperature.

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