A century ago military powers used sophisticated visual shape-disrupting techniques to conceal weapons of war, and to hide resources during wartime. The artform was mastered by members of the Women's Reserve—NYC art students who signed up and used their knowledge to enhance the art of camouflage and deception. They developed numerous techniques to camouflage individuals. Camouflage functions by either decreasing contrast of the object being hidden, or by disrupting its shape profile so that the hidden object cannot easily be identified and/or properly categorized.
The Women Reserve also camouflaged naval vessels, and the US Navy had its own office dedicated to the critical function, as did foreign navies such as the British Navy. Naval designs were intended to make the ships more difficult to track and precisely position, so as to thwart would-be torpedo attacks.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Stephen L. Macknik
Stephen L. Macknik is a professor of opthalmology, neurology, and physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Along with Susana Martinez-Conde and Sandra Blakeslee, he is author of the Prisma Prize-winning Sleights of Mind. Their forthcoming book, Champions of Illusion, will be published by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Secret UFOs, Green Rays and Why ET Is Not Coming to Christmas Dinner
By Susana Martinez-Conde on December 24, 2017
The Tilted Road Illusion
By Susana Martinez-Conde on February 11, 2018
Illusions from the National Archives in New York CityNational Archives of New York City archivist Christopher Zarr reveals how deeply the art form of camouflage was pursued 100 years ago during World War I