Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/85

This page has been validated.
75
EFFECTS OF STUDY ON THE EYESIGHT.

acter, cause, and progress, have enlisted the earnest attention of the most eminent oculists, especially during the last decade. The movement received its first impulse from a suggestion of Prof. Donders, made in 1864. It originated, therefore, at the very fountain-head of influence and authority in ophthalmology; for Donders was one of the three men who led in what is now styled "The Great Reformation," wrought some twenty-five years ago, in the treatment of defects and diseases of the eye. To illustrate the character of this change, Dr. Agnew, of New York, in his analysis of 1,065 cases of asthenopia (weak sight), thus describes the standard treatment for this disease only thirty years ago:

"Blisters, mercury, low diet, tartar-emetic, bloodletting, applications of irritating alkaloids, such as veratria, to the circum-ocular parts, and setons, were freely employed. Sometimes the sufferers were so subdued or silenced by the treatment that they ceased to complain of their eyes, preferring to endure the ills they had, rather than to endure those which the attempts to relieve their asthenopia led them to. So common was this treatment," he continues, "that more than one clever irregular practitioner made his fame and fortune in putting the exhausted subjects of it under hygienic rules, and giving them new life and hope by a generous dietary and free out-of-door life; thus showing how so-called quackery is often the natural offspring of our ignorance."

The suggestion of Prof. Donders is found in his work, "Accommodation and Refraction of the Eye," and is as follows:

"It, would be of great importance to possess accurate statistics of the near-sight and far-sight occurring at a given time in a particular category of men, especially, for example, among the students of a university, in order to be able to compare them with the results of repeated investigations at subsequent periods. If it were thus found—and I can scarcely doubt that it would be so—that near-sight is progressive in cultivated society, this would be a very serious phenomenon, and we should earnestly think of means of arresting this progression. Not only is the near-sighted person not in a condition to discharge all civil duties, not only is he limited in the choice of his position in society, but in the higher degrees near-sight leads to disturbance of the power of vision, and threatens its subject with incurable blindness."

About two years after this, Dr. Cohn, of Breslau, published the startling result of his investigations, which had taken the form of an inquiry into the effects of study on the eyesight. Similar investigations followed in various parts of Europe.

A like movement is progressing in this country, which was initiated by Dr. Cornelius R. Agnew, of New York. Under his auspices, examinations have been made in New York, Brooklyn, and Cincinnati. Dr. Edward G. Loring, Jr., and Dr. Peter A. Callan, of New York; Dr. Lucien Howe, of Buffalo; and Dr. Hasket Derby, of Boston, have reported investigations in the same direction.

In some of these investigations the suggestion of Donders has been literally followed; while in most of them the effect of several