The paper discusses the measurement of the burning history of single coal particles, using a two-color optical pyrometer. From intensity traces at two wave-lengths, information on burning times and temperatures, the duration of a volatile flame, and projected areas was obtained for two lignite and three bituminous coals. The coals were pulverized, classified in 38-45 and 90-105 micrometer size ranges, and burned at furnace temperatures of 1250 and 1700 K in atmospheres containing from 15 to 100% oxygen. The intensity traces at short times showed the influence of either attenuation by volatiles or, in some cases, an intense peak attributed to luminous radiation by soot. A model was developed to simulate the combustion of a coal particle. Model predictions of the duration of volatile flames agreed with the values inferred from the intensity traces. Burning times predicted by the model agreed partially with measured values. At 1700 K, the bituminous coal burned close to the predicted diffusion-limited times, while the lignite coal took longer. At 1250 K, the experimental burnout times for all coals were longer than predicted. Possible reasons for the low predictions may be differences in volatile yields and retardation of the reaction by finely distributed ash particles.