The Royal Society (full name: Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge) is marking the start of its 350th year by putting pdf versions of 60 notable papers from its journal, Philosophical Transactions (founded in 1665) on the web. Although all the selected papers are crucial to the history of science, I wanted to call out those particularly related to the fundamentals of rendering.
- A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge; Containing His New Theory about Light and Colors (Isaac Newton, 1671-2). Newton later expanded this into the book Opticks, one of the most significant scientific publications in history.
- The Bakerian Lecture: On the Theory of Light and Colours (Thomas Young, 1802). This paper establishes the wave theory of light – a controversial proposition given Newton’s corpuscular, or particle theory of light (this was resolved over a century later by Albert Einstein, who showed that both theories were correct). One contribution of particular interest to readers of this blog is the tristimulus nature of human vision, which forms the basis of color theory and the RGB computations performed in graphics today.
- An Account of Some Recent Improvements in Photography (William Henry Fox Talbot, 1837). As the first mechanical method for producing images of scenes, photography is the precursor of computer graphics. This paper introduces the negative / positive photographic process, which transformed photography from a novelty into a practical tool.
- A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (James Clerk Maxwell, 1865). Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetic waves are the basis of modern optics. The Fresnel reflectance equations are derived directly from them, as is the theory for light scattering in participating media.
- Theory of Edge Detection (David Marr and Ellen Hildreth, 1980). This paper is one of the foundations of computer vision, which is closely linked to rendering. Techniques such as edge detection filters, unsharp masking and bilateral filtering are directly based on the results of this work.
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