Ewald Hering

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Karl Ewald Konstantin Hering (August 5, 1834 – January 26, 1918) was a German physiologist who did much research into color vision and spatial perception. His uncle was the homeopath Constantine Hering.

Born in Alt-Gersdorf, Kingdom of Saxony, Hering studied at the University of Leipzig and became a professor at Charles University in Prague.


Color theory

Hering disagreed with the leading theory developed mostly by Thomas Young and Hermann von Helmholtz.[1] Helmholtz's theory stated that the human eye perceived all colors in terms of three primary colors: red, green, and blue. Hering instead believed that the visual system worked based on a system of color opponency, a proposal now widely recognized as correct.

Hering looked more at qualitative aspects of color and said there were six primary colors, coupled in three pairs: red-green, yellow-blue and white-black. Any receptor that was turned off by one of these colors, was excited by its coupled color. This results in six different receptors. It also explained afterimages. His theory was rehabilitated in the 1970s when Edwin Land developed the Retinex theory that stated that whereas Helmholtz's colors hold for the eye, in the brain the three colors are translated into six.

Other research

In 1861 Hering described an optical illusion which now bears his name - Hering illusion. He also developed Hering's law of equal innervation to describe the conjugacy of saccades in animals.

The Hering-Breuer reflex is also named for him.


Further reading

  • Turner RS (1993). "Vision studies in Germany: Helmholtz versus Hering". Osiris 8: 80–103. doi:10.1086/368719. PMID 11639585. 
  • Baumann C (June 1992). "[Ewald Hering's opponent colors. History of an idea]" (in German). Der Ophthalmologe : Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Ophthalmologischen Gesellschaft 89 (3): 249–52. PMID 1303712. 
  • Janko J (1995). "Mach and Hering's physiology of the senses". Clio Medica 33: 89–96. PMID 9061228. 

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