Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

210 × 148 × 15 mm
208 pages
105 illustrations, 77 in colour
16 Apr 2018

Rainbows Nature and Culture Daniel MacCannell

The rainbow is a compelling spectacle in nature – a rare bridge between subjective experience and objective reality – and no less remarkable as a cultural phenomenon. Daniel MacCannell’s enlightening, instructive and beautifully illustrated guide to the rainbow is the first of its kind. It describes what rainbows are and how they work, how we arrived at our current scientific understanding of rainbows, and how they have been portrayed in myths, the arts, politics and popular culture.

‘Rainbows, often depicted as a simple arc of six or seven colors, are complex visual phenomena that have fascinated humans since ancient times. In this nicely illustrated guide, historian Daniel MacCannell starts off with a brief chapter describing the science behind rainbows and their many different manifestations. He moves on to deeper discussions of the history of their scientific study and of their mythic, artistic, cultural, and political significance.’ — Physics Today

‘This volume offers a straightforward survey of the rainbow’s significance in science, history, and culture. MacCannell begins with an overview of our current scientific understanding of the phenomenon and its varieties. He then covers the study of rainbows throughout history, from Ancient Greek and Persian scholars through the European Renaissance and Enlightenment. The text examines the use of rainbows in religious myths as well as cultural touchstones such as literature, music, and art. Finally, MacCannell considers the use of the rainbow as a societal and political symbol . . . An excellent job of highlighting examples from around the world, including South America, Asia, and Africa. Recommended’ — Choice

‘Rainbows blends science, culture, history and art in a very readable style.’ — Weather Eye Magazine

Show all

An honorary research fellow in History at the University of Aberdeen, Daniel MacCannell ue frgs has written nine books, including Oxford: Mapping the City (2016) and How to Read Scottish Buildings (2015).

1 What Rainbows Are and How They Work

2 Rainbows in the History of Scientific Enquiry

3 Rainbows and Myth

4 Rainbows in Literature, Poetry and Music

5 Rainbows in Art and Film

6 Rainbows in Politics and Popular Culture


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements