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April 1975

Physiological Optics

Arch Ophthalmol. 1975;93(4):322. doi:10.1001/archopht.1975.01010020332017

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As the eye surgeon adjusts the operating microscope, or aligns his laser beam, he should pause and reflect; his sophisticated specialty comes from a very humble beginning. In a medical dictionary written in 1795, G. Motherby simply divides eye disease into ophthalmia of an inflammatory nature, and an ophthalmia that included everything else. We are told that some of the major causes of ophthalmia are cold air, dust, and overexposure to vivid colors. Interestingly enough, at about the same time, Newton, Huygens, Descartes, and Kepler were formulating the laws of optics. The paths of science and medicine seemed worlds apart at that time. Who would be able to convince those medical men of yesterday that optics and mathematics could help the red, tearing, dim-sighted eyes of their patients?

Indeed, mental giants were needed. Fortunately, there were such giants walking the stage of European science in the mid 19th century. Helmholtz

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