Color through Phenomenon

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), well-known as a German Romantic playwright, was also a rigorous natural scientist, having conducted studies ranging from optics to meteorology, anatomy, and botany. In order to gain a breadth of understanding for his geological studies at the University of Jena, Goethe collected 17,800 rock samples. For his studies of color and optics, Goethe likewise collected specimens — examples of color phenomena — sifting and sorting them into their most essential form of manifestation, and presenting them in a well ordered sequence in order to render comprehensible the 'deeds and sufferings of light.' Unlike Newton, he did not rely merely on a single experimentum crucis. Goethe developed a new methodology for scientific inquiry which, unlike mechanistic materialism, understood nature as inherently wholistic and alive.

We want to further Goethe's endeavors by fostering a community of color enthusiasts who will contribute to making available the largest and most complete repository of color phenomena in the world.


  • First and only open source version of Theory of Colors in English.
  • First and only complete digital text of Eastlake's translation of Goethe's Theory of Colors, with footnotes and color plates.
  • Best German version of Zur Farbenlehre currently on the Internet.
  • AudioBook version of the original 1840 translation of Zur Farbenlehre (Aug. 2014).
  • User friendly tools for collaborative translation and formatting of Theory of Colors.

Short Term Goals

  • The translation of Theory of Colors into English has never been completed — we want to complete the English translation of Goethe's Theory of Colors.
  • Publish the German and English editions of Theory of Colors in eBook formats.

Long Term Goals

  • Create a community-driven repository of video and images that illustrate every known light phenomenon.
  • Create a collaborative effort to improve upon the 1910 translation including linking of the light phenomenon database to relevant sections of the text to create a study guide.
  • Create a section of academic articles on Goethe's observations of color, to foster an academic understanding of Goethe's work on color.
  • Using resources made available through the website, create a freely available movie on color.
  • Creation of a 3D color renderer — capable of rendering scenes in color based on volumetric differentials of light and dark as described in Theory of Colors.

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