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Augustus James Pleasonton, often called A. J. Pleasonton (January 21, 1801–1894), was a General during the American Civil War. He wrote the pseudo-scientific book The Influence Of The Blue Ray Of The Sunlight And Of The Blue Color Of The Sky, which was published in 1876. His book is often attributed to being the birth of contemporary chromotherapy. He was the son of Stephen Pleasonton and elder brother of Civil War-General Alfred Pleasonton.


Personal life[]

Augustus Pleasonton was born in Washington D.C. in 1801. He was the second son of Stephen Pleasonton (originally from Delaware) and Mary Hopkins (from Lancaster, Pennsylvania). Stephen Pleasonton served in the US State Department from 1800 until his death in 1854. Stephen Pleasonton served as the fifth auditor of the Treasury Department, acting Commissioner of the Revenue of the United States, and Chief of the Light House Department. Stephen Pleasonton fought in the War of 1812, earning him fame and honor as a commander for the United States. Stephen Pleasonton's wife (Augustus Pleasonton's mother), was the third daughter of John Hopkins, a wealthy farmer and then-Senator of the state of Pennsylvania. Stephen Pleasonton is of Norman-decent and his wife, Mary Hopkins, is of English descent.

Augustus Pleasonton would go on to serve in the military, directly influenced by his father's public and civil service, as would Augustus's younger brother, Alfred Pleasonton and affected his younger brother's and both boys were assured nomination to the Academy by their father's fame from the .

younger brother Alfred Pleasonton was also a General for the US Army cavalry in the Civil War.

Military service[]

From 1826 - 1827, Augustusof Pleasonton served in the Artillery School of Practice at Fort Monroe in Virginia. From 1827 - 1830, he served on Topographical duty. In 1833, he enlisted in the Pennsylvania volunteer militia. In 1844, he was wounded by a musket ball to the left groin. He served in the militia until 1845.

He later attended the United States Military Academy and served as Assistant Adjutant General and paymaster of the state of Pennsylvania.

Civil War[]

Both Augustus and his younger brother Alfred served as Generals for the Union Army in the American Civil War.

From 1861 - 1866, he served as a General in the Civil War. He served as General of an infantry brigade of the Volunteer Army Corps. He leda brigade of over 10,000 men during an attack by the Confederacy on the city of Philadelphia in 1861.

The Influence of the Blue Ray of the Sunlight[]

In his later years, Gen. Pleasonton came to a theory that the blue wavelengths from the sun are inherently unique and that the blue rays from the sun are especially influential in the growth of plant and animal life. He also postulated that blue light was especially significant in the health of humans and helped eradicate disease. This theory is pseudoscientific and was never adopted by mainstream scientists, even in his time, but it is often credited as being the birth of modern chromotherapy. Chromotherapy, also called color therapy is an alternative medicine therapy method which states that certain colors can influence the health of a person.

His basis for his theory was that plants flourished in the spring time and not in the winter, when the sky was less blue, and in learning about sea-life. Between the years 1861 and 1876, he tested this theory by establishing greenhouses to grow grapes and ran experiments on plants and animals. His grape experiment consisted of growing grapes in a greenhouse-like building (which was illustrated in the back of his book) where he alternated direct sunlight with filtered blue light. He claimed that this method greatly increased his production of grapes.

He published his theory and experiments in his book, entitled The Influence Of The Blue Ray Of The Sunlight And Of The Blue Color Of The Sky and the subtitle: In developing animal and vegetable life; in arresting disease, and in restoring health in acute and chronic disorders to human and domestic animals.


Blue-glass craze[]

Pleasonton's theory led to what was called the "Blue-glass Craze", whereby people began growing crops under blue light. Soon, blue panes of glass were being sold as a way to increase crop production.


After Pleasonton's findings, scientist Dr. S. Pancoast studied the blue-light phenomenon and described his findings in his book Blue and Red Light; or, Light and Its Rays as Medicine which was published in 1877. Edwin Dwight Babbitt was also influenced by this concept and published a book about chromotherapy in 1878, entitled The Principles of Light and Color.


  • Alternative-rock band OK Go's concept album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, is influenced by Pleasonton's book.


  • The Influence Of The Blue Ray Of The Sunlight And Of The Blue Color Of The Sky by AJ Pleasonton. [1]
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  • [4] - Chromotherapy
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