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Unconsciousness of Peculiarities
personal and family histories. If the necessary materials be brought into
existence, it will require no more than zeal and persuasiveness on the part
of the future investigator to collect as large a store of them as he may
The importance of submitting our faculties to measurement lies in the
curious unconsciousness in which we are apt to live of our personal
peculiarities, and which our intimate friends often fail to remark. I have
spoken of the ignorance of elderly persons of their deafness to high notes,
but even the existence of such a peculiarity as colour blindness was not
suspected until the memoir of Dalton in 1 794. That one person out of
twenty-nine or thereabouts should be unable to distinguish a red from a
green, without knowing that he had any deficiency of colour sense, and
without betraying his deficiency to his friends, seems perfectly incredible
to the other twenty-eight; yet as a matter of fact he rarely does either the
one or the other. It is hard to convince the colour-blind of their own
infirmity. I have seen curious instances of this: one was that of a person
by no means unpractised in physical research, who had been himself
tested in matching colours. He gave me his own version of the result, to
the effect that though he might perhaps have fallen a little short of
perfection as judged by over-refined tests, his colour sense was for all
practical purposes quite good. On the other hand, the operator assured me
that when he had toned the intensities of a pure red and a pure green in a
certain proportion, the person ceased to be able to distinguish between
them! Colour blindness is often very difficult to detect, because the test
hues and tints may be discriminated by other means than by the normal
colour sense. Ordinary pigments are never pure, and the test colours may
be distinguished by those of their adventitious hues to which the partly
colour-blind man may be sensitive. We do not suspect ourselves to be
yellow-blind by candle light, because we enjoy pictures in the evening
nearly or perhaps quite as much as in the day time; yet we may observe
that a yellow primrose laid on Previous page Top Next page