Richard S. Hunter

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Richard Sewall Hunter (1909–1991) was an American color scientist and founder of Hunter Associates Laboratory (HunterLab).[1] [2] He is best known as the inventor in 1942 of the Lab color space.[3][4]

Hunter was awarded the David Richardson Medal in 1971.[5]


Richard Hunter was born in Washington, DC on October 25, 1909 and lived his entire life in Northern, Virginia. He graduated from the old McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC in 1927 and took the US Civil Service exam. He found employment, as a "minor Laboratory apprentice" in the colorimetry section of what was then the National Bureau of Standards, working with pioneers in the color measurement field like Dr. Deane B. Judd. At night he attended The George Washington University and, after studies at Johns Hopkins and MIT, he graduated from GWU in 1937.

It was at the Bureau he conceived the Lab color scale ("L" for lightness, zero to 100, "a" for red-green, roughly +50 to -50, and "b" for blue-yellow, again roughly -50 to +50) that was much easier for a layperson to comprehend than the XYZ scale scientists had developed to describe the human eye's, three dimensional response to color. The official, NBS circular documenting this development was published in 1942. In 1946, after WW II work on aimable signaling mirrors (the earlier ones had no way for the user to see where the flash was going) and aerial flares, he left the Bureau to join Gardiner Laboratories where he designed many instruments for the measurement of color and gloss.

He resigned from Gardiner in the summer of 1952 and opened Hunter Associates Laboratory (HunterLab) October 1, 1952 with 2 employees in the house in McLean, VA where he had grown up. Several months later his wife, Elizabeth, joined to manage the business aspects. He began HunterLab as a consulting company, usually building one or two instruments for a consulting customer. Over the years he designed instruments to score tomato puree for USDA Grade A rating, a citrus colorimeter for grading frozen orange juice for the Florida Citrus commission, gloss meters, a distinctness of image meter an on-line colorimeter and many other color and appearance measuring instruments.

The character of the company changed from consulting manufacturing when, in 1956, Procter & Gamble asked Mr. Hunter to build twenty-five of the colorimeters he developed for them in his development project number 25 (D25). From that point on HunterLab was a manufacturer and that business slowly grew over the years, moving to Fairfax, VA and, in 1979 to Reston, VA where it is headquartered today.

Richard Hunter had a long list of achievements during a career that spanned over 60 years. In addition to conceiving the Lab color scale and it's companion Delta E (color difference) scale, he wrote the text book, The Measurement of Color and Appearance, published in 1975 (revised in 1987). He was an active member of many organizations, including American Society for Testing Materials ASTM); The Optical Society of America (OSA); The Inter Society Color Council (ISCC), Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI) and the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology to name a few. He chaired numerous committees and served as President and board member of the ISCC from 1972 to 1974.

In 1982 Mr. Hunter began work on the ASTM publication - Compilation of Color and Appearance Standards. The first edition was published in 1984, a second in 1987. He was reviewing the nearly final draft of the Third Edition in December 1990, just before he died.

His awards and recognitions include the ISCC Godlove Award ('91 posthumously); The ASTM Award of Merit (1961); ASTM Fellow; The Bruning Award of the Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology (1962);The Richardson Award from the Optical Society of America (1970); A Fellow of OSA; The ISCC Macbeth Award (1976). The ASTM Executive Subcommittee of Committee E12 on Color and Appearance created the Richard S. Hunter Award to honor and recognize those individuals who exemplify the personal and professional characteristics displayed by Mr. Richard Hunter.

Typifying his lifelong interest in education, in 1982 Richard and Elizabeth Hunter made a gift to the Rochester Institute of Technology to establish the Richard S. Hunter Professorship of Color Science, Appearance and Technology. The chair is currently held by Dr. Roy Berns.

He died on January 16th, 1991 at Arlington Hospital from complciations related to Parkinson's Disease.


  1. ^ Hunter, Richard Sewall 1942, "Photoelectric Tristimulus Colorimetry with Three Filters", National Bureau of Standards, U.S. Dept. of Commerce (Circular of the National Bureau of Standards C429, July 30, 1942)
  2. ^ "Richard Sewall Hunter (1909-1991)". Color Research & Application. 16 (3): 143–143. 1991.
  3. ^ Hunter, Richard Sewall (July 1948). "Photoelectric Color-Difference Meter". JOSA. 38 (7): 661. (Proceedings of the Winter Meeting of the Optical Society of America)
  4. ^ Hunter, Richard Sewall (December 1948). "Accuracy, Precision, and Stability of New Photo-electric Color-Difference Meter". JOSA. 38 (12): 1094. (Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Optical Society of America)
  5. ^ "David Richardson Medal". The Optical Society. 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013.