Artifact Biography: A Variable Colour Mixer

Erich Weidenhammer


Among the artifacts representing early research in experimental psychology at the University of Toronto is a precisely machined steel instrument of German manufacture. The provenance of this variable colour mixer opens onto a largely-forgotten history of research into colour perception that depended heavily on mechanical instruments of the spinning-wheel type. Like the broader practices and principles of experimental psychology, these instruments were widely disseminated during a period in which the German research-based model of university education was widely admired.  

For most of its early history at the University of Toronto, the experimental laboratory was run by a German, August Kirschmann (1860-1932), who led investigations into the psychological basis for aesthetic judgement, especially as it concerned colour perception. Kirschmann’s hostility to existing art criticism reflected his belief that experimental psychology could provide a coherent foundation to the language of aesthetics.


Experimental Psychology, Toronto, Colour Aesthetics, Zimmermann, Kirschmann,

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Copyright (c) 2019 Erich Weidenhammer

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360