AJO History of Ophthalmology Series




Charles Darwin (1809-1882) cultivated a wide variety of consultants to buttress his ideas, especially for The Descent of Man (1871) and for The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). He exchanged letters with the English ophthalmologist and anatomist William Bowman over the course of 15 years. When Bowman at one point loaned Darwin his copy of Solbert Wells’ Treatise on Diseases of the Eye (1869), Darwin returned it with a note that he was “surprised that any of us have eyes at all seeing what a frightful number of horrid diseases the eye is liable to.”


Between 1869 and 1874, Darwin also exchanged many letters with Franciscus Cornelis Donders, the ophthalmologist and scientist in Utrecht. Puzzled that parrots in the London zoo contract and dilate their pupils independent of the amount of light, Darwin asked Donders about it. Donders wondered whether Darwin was aware of the effect of accommodation and sent Darwin a copy of his 1864 book on the subject. Darwin found the physiology of the pupil “very complex.”


Submitted by David Bisno from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.

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Jan 17, 2017 | Posted by in OPHTHALMOLOGY | Comments Off on AJO History of Ophthalmology Series
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