About mid-career, Hering challenged the dominant theory of color vision and the authority of its author, Hermann von Helmholtz. Hering maintained that the Young-Helmholtz model didn’t account well for color blindness or for afterimages of opposite colors. He proposed three retinal receptors, each using both catabolic and anabolic processes. Hering explanation was reasonable and his research well done, but the immense prestige of Helmholtz and the force of personalities allowed the discussion to degenerate into personal confrontation, not scientific debate. Similarly, when Hering challenged Fechner’s law by proposing an alternative explanation, Fechner’s response was very personal. Although Hering wasn’t afraid to take on the intellectual giants of his time, he was no match for their popularity.
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