Tobias Mayer, born February 17, 1723, in Marbach, Germany, a mathematician, astronomer, cartographer, and physicist, was the only child of a fountain builder and his wife. Mayer was 10 years old when his father passed away, and he grew up in impoverished circumstances in the nearby city of Esslingen, spending some time in an orphanage. He taught himself mathematics and in his later teens earned some money teaching it. Mayer also showed early interest and capabilities in drawing and painting. He moved to Augsburg to obtain more training, working for the engraver and publisher J. A. Pfeffel. At 18 he wrote and published an elementary book on mathematics and at 22 a much more detailed work on the same subject . His capabilities and the fact that he had designed an accurate map of Esslingen, later published, provided for him in 1746 an offer to join the firm of the cartographer Homann in Nürnberg, at the time perhaps the most important map publisher in Europe. In 1751 he married Maria Gnüge, and a year later their son Johann Tobias was born, in his later life a mathematician/physicist. In the same year Tobias Mayer’s reputation as a scientist resulted in an offer of a professorship in economy and mathematics at the University of Göttingen, where he remained until his untimely death on February 20, 1762 due to a typhus infection. In 1754 he also became the supervisor of the Royal Observatory of Göttingen, built some 10 years earlier. His major scientific achievements are a data table of the moon and highly detailed drawings of the surface of the moon based on a new methodology to achieve high accuracy and the development of a new much more accurate methodology for the determination of longitude. The latter effort resulted in his widow receiving a 3,000-pound Sterling Award from the British Parliament. One of the craters of the moon is named “T Mayer” .
Mayer presented his ideas in 1758 in a public meeting of the Society of Sciences in Göttingen, a report of which was published in the newspaper Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen (Göttingen reports on scholarly matters) some three weeks later . This report was the basis of J. H. Lambert’s work on his triangular color pyramid . Mayer had not done much experimental work to implement his system. As pointed out by Lambert, Mayer had not been aware of the varying coloristic strength of the three primaries, requiring consideration for the purpose of obtaining perceptual uniformity.
In 1958 Mayer also invented a new coloration method for prints. He proposed, and produced an example of, the coloration to consist of sections of wax containing different amounts of pigments to achieve different colors . Multiple prints could then be produced from the wax collage. The idea proved to be too complex to be practical and was not pursued after his death.
- 1.Mayer, T.: Mathematischer Atlas. Pfeffel, Augsburg (1745)Google Scholar
- 3.Mayer, T.: De affinitate colorum commentatio (On the relationship between colors), published posthumously in G. C. Lichtenberg, Opera inedita Tobiae Mayeri (Unpublished works of Tobias Mayer). Dieterich, Göttingen (1775). English translation: On the relationships between colors (A. Fiorentini, transl.), Color Research and Application 25, 66–73 (2000)Google Scholar
- 4.Lang, H.: Tobias Mayers Abhandlung über die Verwandtschaft der Farbe. Die Farbe 28, 1–34 (1980)Google Scholar
- 5.Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, part 147, p. 1385-9 (1758)Google Scholar
- 6.Lambert, J. H.: Beschreibung einer mit dem Calauischen Wachse ausgemalten Farbenpyramide. Haude und Spener, Berlin (1772). English translation available at www.iscc.org
- 7.Günther, G.C.: Praktische Anweisung zur Pastellmalerei, pp. 129–132. Schneider, Nürnberg (1792)Google Scholar