The 225 Year Old Cyanometer That Measures Blue

cyanometer for blue of sky

The website Colossal writes: “Hot on the heels of a post earlier this week about centuries-old guide for mixing watercolors, I stumbled onto this 18th century instrument designed to measure the blueness of the sky called a Cyanometer. The simple device was invented in 1789 by Swiss physicist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt who used the circular array of 53 shaded sections in experiments above the skies over Geneva, Chamonix and Mont Blanc. The Cyanometer helped lead to a successful conclusion that the blueness of the sky is a measure of transparency caused by the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. You can learn more at the Royal Society of Chemistry.”

The sky most certainly wows us with its many shades but that de Saussure would have the get-go to number each hue of blue? That’s pretty amazing. I wonder if this same tool would be not only helpful for the natural dyer to mark and record each dye bath but inspiration for art. Imagine a wall of these in all hues? Lovely for sure.

For more blues, go check out our woad and indigo.

Image: Bibliothèque de Genève, Switzerland