Cheseldine’s Blind Boy

If we omit the miracle described in Chapter 8 of the Gospel of Saint Mark, the first documented case of surgery restoring vision to a patient blind since birth or early youth was published by the renowned English surgeon William Cheseldine in 1728.

When he first saw, he was so far from making any judgment of distances, that he thought all object whatever touched his eyes (as he expressed it) as what he felt did his skin, and thought no object so agreeable as those which were smooth and regular, though he could form no judgment of their shape, or guess what it was in any object that was pleasing to him: he knew not the shape of anything, nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude; but upon being told what things were, whose form he knew before from feeling, he would carefully observe, that he might know them again.

Of course this boy after surgery was an uncorrected aphake and this doubtlessly contributed to his difficulties. Nonetheless his story promptly entered into the controversy between “rationalists” (those who felt sensory meaning was hardwired in the brain) and “empiricists” (those who felt that meaning required learning from experience). The concept of agnosia emerged and was widely accepted only in the late 19 th Century.

REFERENCE: An Account of Some Observations Made by a Young Gentleman, Who Was Born Blind, or Lost His Sight so Early, That He Had no Remembrance of Ever Having Seen, and Was Couch’d between 13 and 14 Years of Age . By Will. Cheselden. Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), Vol. 35. (1727-1728), pp. 447-450.

Submitted by Ron Fishman from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.

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Jan 7, 2017 | Posted by in OPHTHALMOLOGY | Comments Off on Cheseldine’s Blind Boy

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