Dorothy Nickerson was an American color scientist and technologist who made important contributions in the fields of color quality control, technical use of colorimetry, the relationship between color stimuli and color perceptions, standardization of light sources, color tolerance specification, and others.
Nickerson received degrees from Boston University, U.S., and Johns Hopkins University, U.S.. At the time, the science of color was in significant development. There were no international standards in the field, and Nickerson was instrumental in developing the technology. In the late 1920s, Nickerson worked to define the color quality of cotton and other agricultural products, which led to the development of the CIE colorimetric system of 1931.
In 1940, Nickerson joined an OSA technical committee that began a study of the Munsell color system and its definition in the CIE colorimetric system. The final report is known as the Munsell Renotations and was published in JOSA in 1943. She prepared plots of the Munsell colors in the CIE chromaticity diagram which remain in publication today. In 1944, together with her assistant K. F. Stultz, she published a colorimetric color difference formula, known as the Adams–Nickerson–Stultz formula, that eventually became the CIE L*a*b* color space and difference formula.
In the mid-1940s, Nickerson was active in methods for assessing the color of soils, an effort that found its expression in the Munsell Soil Color Chart, still in use today. In 1957 Munsell issued the Nickerson Color Fan, a color chart for horticultural purposes. In 1947, Nickerson joined the OSA Committee on Uniform Color Scales. The research and development of the Optical Society of America Uniform Color Space (OSA-UCS) carried on for the next 30 years and Nickerson wrote an article about the history of the process in the Winter 1977 issue of Optics News.
Nickerson was a lifelong member of the Inter-Society Color Council and received the Society’s most prestigious award, the Godlove Award, in 1961. In 1970 she received the Gold Medal of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. In 1975, she was given the first D.B. Judd Award from the International Association on Color. She was heavily involved with Munsell Color Foundation and assisted in its transfer to the Rochester Institute of Technology, U.K. in 1983 which helped to fund the Munsell Color Science Laboratory. She was a member of the first class of OSA Fellows.
Nickerson died in 1985.