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Book and Software Review
April 1999

The First Steps in Seeing

Author Affiliations

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by R. W. Rodieck, PhD, 562 pp, with 830 illus, $74.95, ISBN 0-87893-757-9, Sunderland, Mass, Sinauer Associates, Inc, 1998.


Copyright 1999 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1999

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(4):550. doi:

From a historical perspective, the visual system has been a field examined by many different scientific disciplines. The First Steps in Seeingby R. W. Rodieck is an effort to compile the most recent information provided by these disciplines and translate it into a language that is comprehensible to both the sophisticated and casually interested reader. The book is well organized and begins with a breakdown of one of the most basic uses of sight—survival. For this, Rodieck details the visual requirements that must be met by the cheetah chasing its prey, and the gazelle trying to avoid being caught (chapter 1: "The Chase"). From this scenario Rodieck takes us on an adventure that increases in complexity, beginning with the pathway a photon travels from distant objects like the star Polaris through the structure of the eye and retina. Along this adventure we learn the molecular basis of how the photon is captured and turned into a neurochemical signal (phototransduction) that then passes through the neural network of the retina on its way to the brain.