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Henry Hemmendinger papers

Creation: 1931-2000, bulk 1960-1985
Accession: 2325


Henry Hemmendinger was one of the preeminent color scientists of his day. Hemmendinger's papers represent the span of his career and includes contributions from a variety of individuals and organizations working the field of color science.


  • Creation: 1931-2000, bulk 1960-1985



7 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Henry Hemmendinger was one of the preeminent color scientists of his day. He was born April 1, 1915, he worked nearly 50 years until his death in 2003.

Hemmendinger attended Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in 1935 and 1937, respectively. In 1939 he was awarded a Ph. D. from Princeton University in astronomy. As a color scientist, he was widely recognized by his peers. He earned numerous awards and honors, including the prestigious Godlove Award from the Inter-Society Color Council. He was awarded honorary membership on the Council. Hemmendinger worked closely with the National Bureau of Standards to find and set precise standards for industrial colorists. For many years he was the only American supplier of calibrated color materials used to evaluate the performance of color-measurement instruments. He was so influential in the standards world, that he was often consulted regarding high-level appointments within the NBS.

In addition to focusing on good standards and practice, Hemmendinger worked at quantifying performance errors in colorimetry, whether gathered by human observers or photometric equipment. He became an expert on metamerism, a breakdown in color match by changing either the illuminant or the observer. This expertise is reflected in his life's work.

Like so many others of his generation, Hemmendinger went to work to aid the war effort during World War II. He was a member of an operations research group in the Navy. As part of this research group, he worked on pro-submarine warfare. While working for the Navy, Hemmendinger met his future partner, Hugh Davidson. Immediately following the conclusion of the war, the two joined General Aniline & Film Corp. Initially the pair worked in general physics until becoming interested in color after working with I. H. Godlove. At GAF Davidson and Hemmendinger demonstrated the type of invention and innovation that would later make them giants in their field. They developed the Automatic Tristimulus Integrator, a device that provided the first means of rapidly obtaining XYZ values. XYZ values are essentially values given to observations of the color spectrum.

In 1952, Hemmendinger partnered with Hugh Davidson and created Davidson & Hemmendinger (D&). As partners, Davidson and Hemmendinger contributed important technological advancements to the field of color science. Reflecting on their work, Henry said, "My collaboration with Hugh Davidson...was dominated by our being there at the beginning." Using technologies developed during their Navy days the duo developed COMIC, a colorant-mixture analog computer, first introduced in 1958. In the time before digital technology, it represented the first successful color matching system. Davidson and Hemmendinger would later introduce a digital version known as COMIC II in 1967. COMIC's development earned them the Henry E. Millson Award for Invention in 1988. As partners, Davidson and Hemmendinger evaluated colors for the Munsell Book of Color. They examined the curve shapes for candidate colors to ensure good color constancy under different illuminations. Their largest contribution to the Munsell book was to embody the Munsell system in glossy paint. Current embodiments of the Munsell Color system are nowhere near as color-constant as the contribution from D&H. It is a testament to Hemmendinger's quest for good practice and standard that his work with Hugh Davidson stands as the color-constant decades later. The final major contribution of D&H to the field was the D&H Color Rule. It is a device to gauge the extent of observer metamerism and is still viewed as indispensable in teaching the principles of observer metamerism.

Davidson and Hemmendinger, along with other giants of the color science world shared their work through conferences and courses. Hemmendinger was involved in lecturing and teaching color courses for almost 20 years. He gave courses at universities and major companies, including Ford and Pfizer, and his interest in industrial standards led him to hold many courses and lectures for both companies.

Shortly after developing COMIC II in 1967, D&H was sold to Kollmorgen and was combined with Macbeth Instrument Development Laboratories. Hemmendinger opted not to stay with Kollmorgen and in 1970 he formed his own consulting firm, the Hemmendinger Color Laboratory (HCL). Here he continued his dedication to standards, choosing to focus here on the distribution of colorimetric and spectrophotometric standards. Like his previous work, Hemmendinger sought to test instrument calibration, using metameric pairs to assess instrument performance. Davidson stayed with Kollmorgen until 1972 when he formed Davidson Colleagues. He spent the rest of his career working to develop color-matching software for the growing computer industry

In the field of color science, Henry Hemmendinger was an innovator, collaborator, and teacher. Throughout his career, he made important contributions to the field. Before digital computers, Hemmendinger and Hugh Davidson found a way to effectively and accurately mix color. Hemmendinger never stopped working in the field of color science. He was corresponding and publishing papers as late as 2000. He died in his Princeton, NJ, home August 16, 2003, at the age of 88.


Every effort was made to preserve Henry Hemmendinger's filing system. In general records that were filed together remain intact, but the lack of a comprehensive filing system necessitated the creation of functional organizational categories in order to gain intellectual control over a diverse body of material. The collection includes a large amount of correspondence spread over many series and subseries; it is all arranged in descending chronological order.

Scope and Content

The Henry Hemmendinger papers represent the span of his career and includes contributions from a variety of individuals and organizations working the field of color science. The collection follows Henry's work to create color standards, teach others about color science, and demonstrates his position as an innovator and inventor in the field.

Access Restrictions

Some records closed for 25 years from date of creation.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


Gift of Mark and David Hemmendinger

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Henry Hemmendinger papers
Jason Sylvestre
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA