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Article
January 1934

THE FIRST MEDICAL REFRACTIONISTS

Arch Ophthalmol. 1934;11(1):67-80. doi:10.1001/archopht.1934.00830080075009
Abstract

"Unlike our ophthalmological forebears, we can no longer send our patients to a dealer in spectacles to select a suitable pair." Thus wrote the great historian of ophthalmology in 1892.1 A hundred years ago there was not a physician in any country who prescribed the glasses his patients should wear.2 Indeed, it was not physicians, but physicists and physiologists, from Kepler and Descartes to Helmholtz and Donders, who studied the problems of refraction of the eye. A century and a half elapsed following the work of Kepler before a physician, William Porterfield, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, published in 1759 a "Treatise on the Eye, the Manner and Phaenomena of Vision." This work of two volumes dealt comprehensively with the subject, added much useful knowledge and was specially adapted for study by physicians interested in the eye. Half a century later, Thomas Young,

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