A rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colors; the distinct bands are an artifact of human color vision. In ROYGBIV, the colors are arranged in the order of decreasing wavelengths, with red being 650 nm and violet being about 400 nm. The acronym is memorable because Roy is a common male given name, so Roy G. Biv sounds like a first name, middle initial, and a last name.
In Classical Antiquity, Aristotle claimed there was a fundamental scale of seven basic colors. In the Renaissance, several artists tried to establish a new sequence of up to seven primary colors from which all other colors could be mixed. In line with this artistic tradition, Newton divided his color circle, which he constructed to explain additive color mixing, into seven colors. His color sequence including the tertiary color indigo is kept alive today by the Roy G. Biv mnemonic. Originally he used only five colors, but later he added orange and indigo, in order to match the number of musical notes in the major scale.
The Munsell color system, the first formal color notation system (1905), names only five "principal hues": red, yellow, green, blue, and purple (although note that Munsell's purple is not a spectral hue).
Another traditional mnemonic device has been to turn the initial letters of seven spectral colors into a sentence. In Britain the most common is "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain." The mnemonic is said to refer to the defeat and death of Richard, Duke of York at the Battle of Wakefield. In order to avoid reference to this defeat, people from Yorkshire developed the alternative "Rowntrees Of York Gave Best In Value." Alternatively, the biblically inspired "Read Out Your Good Book In Verse," or the more anarchic "Rinse Out Your Granny's Boots In Vinegar," may be used.
In popular culture
Fiction and Books
- Roy G. Biv, a stereotypical hippie who taught about colors and optics was a recurring character in the children's television series Beakman's World, played by Paul Zaloom.
- Roy G. Biv was a pseudonym for the evil mastermind behind the plot of the 2006-2007 episodic video game Sam & Max Save the World.
- Roy-G-BIV was the name of an example character in the role-playing game Paranoia, a pun about the great importance of the seven colors in the game's gameplay.
- Roy G. Bivolo is the real name of the supervillain Rainbow Raider, an enemy of the comics character the Flash, who uses spectral light as his powers
- Roy G. Biv was a TV program which influenced one subgroup of Terrorists in the book The Big U
- Roy G. Biv is the name of a character from the webcomic Monsterkind, notable for his rainbow colored outfit.
- The sentence "Richard Of York gave battle in vain" is mentioned in the third book of the Artemis Fowl series, "The Eternity Code". The sentence, spoken by the protagonist's bodyguard, was the detonation code for the magnetized fairy sonix grenade, hidden under a table in a restaurant. To activate the bomb the last word to say had to be "rainbow", which is what an old lady said, making the bomb explode.
- "Roygbiv" is a song from Boards of Canada albums Boc Maxima (1996) and Music Has the Right to Children (1998), and has been covered many times by electronic dance band STS9.
- "Roy G Biv" is a psychedelic pop band based out of Colorado, USA
- "ROYGBIV" is sung/spelled out in "Easy Breeze," a song by American rock group Clutch, off their 2003 album Slow Hole to China: Rare and Unreleased.
- "Roy G. Biv" is a song from the 2009 They Might Be Giants album Here Comes Science.
- "ROYGBIV" is a 2012 song by Public Service Broadcasting
- "ROYGBIV" is quoted in the song "I'm Comin' " by rapper/actor Will Smith
- The "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain" mnemonic appears in "Richard Of York", a song by Simon Bookish in his Unfair/Funfair (2006) album. The song also features a robotic voice saying the "Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet" color sequence. Roy G Biv is also a children's song.
- Newton, Isaac (1704). Opticks.
- "SHiPS Resource Center || Newton's Colors". .umn.edu. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
- Hutchison, Niels (2004). "Music For Measure: On the 300th Anniversary of Newton's Opticks". Color Music.
- "Boards Of Canada - Music Has The Right To Children (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- "Simon Bookish – Unfair/Funfair (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-07-01.