The rainbow: from ancient Greece to modern optics

Surv Ophthalmol. 2009 Nov-Dec;54(6):714-20. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 Sep 5.


We provide a historical perspective on the rainbow, with a review of early research and observations regarding the rainbow's origin and a discussion of some of the major contributors to our current understanding of what the rainbow represents. An overview of the various types of rainbows is undertaken. We conclude with a discussion of the rainbow's link to refraction, light, the visual system, and perception.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Astronomical Phenomena*
  • Color Perception
  • Greek World
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Mythology
  • Ophthalmology / history*
  • Optics and Photonics / history*
  • Refraction, Ocular