Perfect Sight Without GlassesWilliam Horatio Bates (1860-1931) first published his treatise, The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses (title page), also known as Perfect Sight Without Glasses (cover), in 1920. In 1943, Dr. Bates's wife Emily Bates had an abridged version of the book published under the title Better Eyesight Without Glasses. That book, which is still in print (by Henry Holt), omitted many experimental details, most scholarly references, and all photographs. It also omitted references to the supposed safety of looking directly at the sun (an omission that is repeated in this electronic version). In 1978, after the copyright on the original edition had expired, Health Research Books began to sell reprints, which are still available. Except where noted, this electronic version contains the entire text of the original edition.
Front Matter Preface Contents List of Illustrations
THE CURE OF IMPERFECT SIGHT BY TREATMENT WITHOUT GLASSESCHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY
MOST writers on ophthalmology appear to believe that the last word about problems of refraction has been spoken, and from their viewpoint the last word is a very depressing one. Practically everyone in these days suffers from some form of refractive error. Yet we are told that for these ills, which are not only so inconvenient, but often so distressing and dangerous, there is not only no cure, and no palliatives save those optic crutches known as eyeglasses, but, under modern conditions of life, practically no prevention. It is a well known fact that the human body is not a perfect mechanism. Nature, in the evolution of the human tenement, has been guilty of some maladjustments. She has left, for instance, some troublesome bits of scaffolding, like the vermiform appendix, behind. But nowhere is she supposed to have blundered so badly as in the construction of the eye. With one accord ophthalmologists tell us that the visual organ of man was never intended for the uses to which it is now put. Eons before there were any schools or printing presses, electric lights or moving pictures, its evolution was complete. In those days it served the needs of the human animal perfectly. Man was a hunter, a herdsman, a farmer, a fighter. He needed, we are told, mainly distant vision; l
2 Introductoryand since the eye at rest is adjusted for distant vision, sight is supposed to have been ordinarily as passive as the perception of sound, requiring no muscular action whatever. Near vision, it is assumed, was the exception,
Fig. 1. Patagonians The sight of this primitive pair and of the following groups of primitive people was tested at the World's Fair in St. Louis and found to be normal. The unaccustomed experience of having their
pictures taken, however, has evidently so disturbed them that they were all, probably, myopic when they faced the camera. (see Chapter IX.) necessitating a muscular adjustment of such short duration that it was accomplished without placing any appreciable burden upon the mechanism of accommodation. The fact that primitive woman was a seamstress, an embroiderer, a weaver, an artist in all sorts of fine and beautiful work, appears to have been generally forgotten. Yet
New Demands Upon the Eye 3women living under primitive conditions have just as good eyesight as the men. When man learned how to communicate his thoughts to others by means of written and printed forms, there came some undeniably new demands upon the eye, af-
Fig. 2. African Pigmies They had normal vision when tested, but their expressions show that they could not have had it when photographed. fecting at first only a few people, but gradually including more and more, until now, in the more advanced countries, the great mass of the population is subjected to their influence. A few hundred years ago even princes were not taught to read and write. Now we compel everyone to go to school, whether he wishes to or not,
even the babies being sent to kindergarten. A generation or so ago books were scarce and expensive. To-day, by means of libraries of all sorts, stationary and traveling, they have been brought within the reach of practically everyone. The modern newspaper, with its endless columns of badly printed reading matter, was made possible only by the discovery of the art of manufacturing paper from wood, which is a-thing of yesterday. The tallow candle has been but lately displaced by the various forms of artificial lighting, which tempt most of us to prolong our vocations and avocations into hours when primitive man was forced to rest, and within the last couple of decades has come the moving picture to complete the supposedly destructive process. Was it reasonable to expect that Nature should have provided for all these developments, and produced an organ that could respond to the new demands? It is the accepted belief of ophthalmology to-day that she could not and did not,1 and that, while the processes of civilization depend upon the sense of sight more than upon any other, the visual organ is but imperfectly fitted for its tasks. There are a great number of facts which seem to justify this conclusion. While primitive man appears to have suffered little from defects of vision, it is safe to say that 1 The unnatural strain of accommodating the eyes to close work (for which they were not intended) leads to myopia in a large proportion of growing children - Rosenau Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, third edition, 1917, p. 1093. The compulsion of fate as well as an error of evolution has brought it about that the unaided eye must persistently struggle against the astonishing difficulties and errors inevitable in its structure function and circumstance - Gould The Cause, Nature and Consequences of Eyestrain, Pop Sci Monthly, Dec., 1905. With the invention of writing and then with the invention of the printing-press a new element was introduced, and one evidently not provided for by the process of evolution The human eye which had been evolved for distant vision is being forced to perform a new part, one for which it had not been evolved, and for which it is poorly adapted The difficulty is being daily augmented - Scott The Sacrifice of the Eyes of School Children, Pop Sci Monthly, Oct., 1907
Military Visual Standards 5of persons over twenty-one living under civilized conditions nine out of every ten have imperfect sight, and as the age increases the proportion increases, until at forty it is almost impossible to find a person free from visual defects. Voluminous statistics are available to prove these assertions, but the visual standards of the modern army 1 are all the evidence that is required. In Germany, Austria, France and Italy the- vision with glasses determines acceptance or rejection for military service, and in all these countries more than six diopters 2 of myopia are allowed,
although a person so handicapped cannot, without glasses, see anything clearly at more than six inches from his eyes. In the German Army a recruit for general service is required - or was required under the former government - to have a corrected vision of 6/12 in one eye. That is, he must be able to read with this eye at six metres the line normally read at twelve metres. In other words, he is considered fit for military service if the vision of one eye can be brought up to onehalf normal with glasses. The vision in the other eye may be minimal, end in the Landsturm one eye may be blind. Incongruous as the eyeglass seems upon the soldier, military authorities upon the European continent have come to the conclusion that a man with 6/12 vision wearing glasses is more serviceable than a man with 6/24 vision (one-quarter normal) without them. In Great Britain it was formerly uncorrected vision that determined acceptance or rejection for military service. This was probably due to the fact that previous to the recent war the British Army was used chiefly for 1 Ford Details of Military Medical Administration published with the approval of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army, second revised edition, 1918, pp. 498-499. 2 A diopter is the focussing power necessary to bring parallel rays to a focus at one metre.
6 Introductoryforeign service, at such distances from its base that there might have been difficulty in providing glasses. The standard at the beginning of the war was 6/24 (uncorrected) for the better eye and 6/60 (uncorrected) for the
Fig. 3. Moros from the Philippines
With sight ordinarily normal all were probably myopic when photographed except the one at the upper left whose eyes are shut. poorer, which was required to be the left. Later, owing to the difficulty of securing enough men with even this moderate degree of visual acuity, recruits were accepted whose vision in the right eye could be brought up to 6/12 by correction, provided the vision of one eye was 6/24 without correction.1 1 Tr. Ophth. Soc. U. Kingdom, vol. xxxviii, 1918, pp. 130-131.
Lowering of American Standards 7Up to 1908 the United States required normal vision in recruits for its military service. In that year Bannister and Shaw made some experiments from which they concluded that a perfectly sharp image of the target was not necessary for good shooting, and that, therefore, a visual acuity of 20/40 (the equivalent in feet of 6/12 in metres), or even 20/70, in the aiming eye only, was sufficient to make an efficient soldier. This conclusion was not accepted without protest, but normal vision had become so rare that it probably seemed to those in authority that there was no use insisting upon it; and the visual standard for admission to the Army was accordingly lowered to 20/40 for the better eye and 20/100 for the poorer, while it was further provided that a recruit might be accepted when unable with the better eye to read all the letters on the 20/40 line, prov