Jerry Jacobs

Jerry Jacobs

Research Professor, Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Advisor Status:
Not accepting graduate applications

Research Area

Neuroscience and Behavior


Gerald Jacobs received a B.A. degree at University of Vermont and a Ph. D. from Indiana University. Professor Jacobs has authored numerous journal papers and chapters on a wide range of topics dealing with vision and the visual system. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the International Colour Vision Society, and an Emeritus Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. His major professional honors include the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics (1986), the UCSB Faculty Research Lectureship (1996), the Proctor Medal of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (1998), the Verriest Medal of the International Colour Vision Society (2009), the Tillyer Award of the Optical Society of America (2012), and the Richard C. Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award of the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Indiana University (2022).


Over the years, research conducted in my laboratory was broadly centered on issues having to do with the biology of mammalian vision. In pursuit of this general goal, we studied a range of animal subjects, from mice to humans, and employed experimental techniques that included psychophysical studies of vision, electrophysiological analysis of visual function, elucidation of various structural features of the visual system, and examination of genetically modified rodents. One of our long-term interests was the study of color vision and its biological basis. For example, some years ago we discovered the presence of significant color vision polymorphisms in some species of nonhuman primate. This discovery led to a long series of investigations which revealed eventually both the photopigment and genetic bases for these color vision variations. This work has in turn impacted directly our understanding of the evolution of primate color vision and it has provided the basis for a much more detailed view of linkages between genes, photopigments, retinal organization, and vision. Upon my retirement from a formal teaching role, and following a period of forty years of continuous funding from NIH and NSF, the laboratory was closed a few years ago. Through an active program of writing, speaking, and scholarly research I continue to be fully engaged in pushing forward our understanding of the biological basis of seeing.

Selected Publications

Neitz, M., Neitz, J. and G. H. Jacobs (1991) Spectral tuning of pigments underlying red-green color vision. Science252, 971-974.

Jacobs, G. H., Neitz, J. and J. F. Deegan II (1991) Retinal receptors in rodents maximally sensitive to ultraviolet light. Nature353, 655-656.

Jacobs, G. H., Neitz, M., Deegan, J. F. and J. Neitz (1996) Trichromatic colour vision in New World monkeys. Nature382, 156-158.

Jacobs, G. H. (1996) Primate photopigments and primate color vision. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA93, 577-581.

Jacobs, G. H., Neitz, M. and J. Neitz (1996) Mutations in S-cone pigment genes and the absence of colour vision in two species of nocturnal primate. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B263, 705-710.

Jacobs, G. H., Williams, G. A., Cahill, H. And J. Nathans (2007) Emergence of novel color vision in mice engineered to express a human cone photopigment. Science315, 1723-1725.

Jacobs, G. H. and J. Nathans (2009) The evolution of primate color vision. Scientific American300 ( #4), 56-63.

Jacobs, G. H. (2009) Evolution of colour vision in mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B364, 2957-2967.

Jacobs, G. H. (2013) Losses of opsin genes, short-wavelength cone photopigments, and color vision—A significant trend in the evolution of mammalian vision. Visual Neuroscience30, 39-53.

Jacobs, G. H. (2014) The discovery of spectral opponency in visual systems and its impact on understanding the neurobiology of color vision. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences23, 287-314.

Jacobs, G. H. (2014) Recent developments in comparative color vision. In The New Visual Neurosciences (eds J. M. Werner & L. M. Chalupa). MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 557-568.

Jacobs, G. H. (2015) Evolution of color vision and its reflections in contemporary mammals. In Handbook of Color Psychology (eds A. J. Elliot, M. D. Fairchild & A. Franklin). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 110-130.

Kelber, A. and G. H. Jacobs (2016) Evolution of color vision. In Human Color Vision (eds. J. Kremers, R. Baraas & J. Marshall). Springer International, Switzerland, pp. 317-354.

Jacobs, G. H. (2018) Photopigments and the dimensionality of animal color vision. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 86, 108-130.

Jacobs, G. H. (2019) Genetics and evolution of primate color vision.  In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1-28.

Jacobs, G. H. (2021) Color vision.  In Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry, 3rd Edition, Vol. 6 (ed J. Jez).  Elsevier, Oxford, pp. 404-417.