Newton's Color Disc

Newton's Color Disc

Usage conditions apply
This mechanical lantern slide has a wooden frame, and a glass disc divided into fourteen (or twice seven) segments, each representing a color of the rainbow; when the disc is rotated rapidly, it appears white.
In the optical experiments that he described to the Royal Society in 1672, Isaac Newton showed that a prism would disperse sunlight into a spectrum, and identified what he deemed the seven basic colors of this spectrum. In his Opticks (London, 1717), Newton discussed the persistence of vision, noting that a burning coal moved quickly in a circle appears as a continuous circle. Newton’s Color Disc combines these two ideas.
Ref: Lorenzo Marcy, The Sciopticon Manual (Philadelphia, 1877), p. 31.
Currently not on view
Object Name
lantern slide
date made
late nineteenth century
overall: 3/4 in x 4 in x 10 in; 1.905 cm x 10.16 cm x 25.4 cm
overall: 1 7/8 in x 3 15/16 in x 10 in; 4.7625 cm x 10.00125 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object