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May 1948


Author Affiliations


Arch Ophthalmol. 1948;39(5):665-668. doi:10.1001/archopht.1948.00900020674011

The ancient Greeks, and Romans too, were well acquainted with the ocular phenomena of death. They are mentioned by Hippocrates, Galen and others. The artistic exhibition generally preceded the scientific description. One can see the postmortem immobility of the eyes in a turned-up position in the far famed picture of Guido Reni "Sain Sebastian," painted many hundreds of years before the scientific description. The first enumerations of postmortem ocular phenomena were made by Antoine Louis and, a little later, by Bichat. Most ancient investigators were interested only secondarily in scientific causes; their main motive was in agreement with the spirit of the age, to determine the real and absolutely sure sign of death. So great was the fear of cataleptic trance in those days that apprehension was not groundless. In this connection, interesting data may be found in the book of the famous Hyrtl.

Antoine Louis, in 1752, attributed an

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