The first thing a sommelier[1] does is swirl his or her wine in a glass to evaluate the viscosity of the wine. The second thing the sommelier does is examine the color of the wine. From an analytical perspective, the assessment of a sample based upon its color is one of the oldest analytical techniques, known historically as colorimetry. Our contemporary understanding of light, energy, and color was founded by James Clerk Maxwell, called the father of modern physics. In 1864, Maxwell published the landmark paper “Dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field[2],” in which he described light as mutually perpendicular oscillating electric and magnetic fields. During the presentation of his paper, Maxwell proclaimed “We have strong reason to conclude that light itself – including radiant heat and other radiation, if any – is an electromagnetic disturbance in the form of waves propagated through the electro-magnetic field according to electro-magnetic laws.” The equations outlined in this paper became what we now refer to as the Maxwell Equations. Ivan Tolstoy proclaimed in his biography of Maxwell: “Maxwell’s importance in the history of scientific thought is comparable to Einstein’s (whom he inspired) and to Newton’s (whose influence he curtailed).

[1] A sommelier is a trained wine steward who examines wine for quality and matches a particular wine with a specific dish.
[2] Maxwell, J. C. Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond, 1866, 155.