1811, has taken pains to ascertain, whether the power by which the eye is adjusted to see at different distances, depends in

any degree on the faculty in the pupil of dilating and contracting; and whether its fixed dilatation has any influence in preventing an accurate view of near objects. This last mentioned effect Dr. Wells relates to have taken place remarkably in the case of Dr. CUTTING, whose pupil being fixed in a dilated state by the action of the extract of belladonna, perfect vision of a near object was removed, as the dilatation advanced, from six inches (which was the nearest distance at which Dr. Cutting could distinctly see the image of the flame of a candle reflected from the bulb of a small thermometer,) to seven inches in thirty minutes, and to three feet and a half in three quarters of an hour. My eldest son, who has a very extensive range of vision, has made a similar experiment on his right eye with a similar result. Previous to the application of the belladonna, he could bring the apparent lines on an optometer (like that improved by Dr. Young from the invention of Dr. PORTERFIELD, and described in the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1800) to meet at four inches from the eye; and, by directing his attention to a more distant point, he could prevent them from meeting till they were seven inches from the eye, after which they continued apparently united the whole length of the optometer, which was twelve inches.* He could see the image of a candle

• The two lines that are perceived on looking through the slits of an optometer, cross each other precisely in the point from whence the rays of light diverge in order to be brought to a focus on the retina. And their apparent union before and after this point is occasioned by the unavoidable thickness of the line drawn on the optometer.


reflected from the bulb of a small thermometer, five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter, at the distance of three inches and three quarters from the eye; and he could also see the same image at the distance of two feet seven inches. The belladonna produced a conspicuous dilatation of the pupil in less than an hour; after which, on viewing the apparent lines on the optometer, he was unable to make them meet at a nearer distance than seven inches, or to gain a distinct image of the candle reflected by the bulb of the thermometer nearer than this distance ; but he could discern it at two feet ten inches from the eye, which was three inches further than he was able to see it, before the belladonna was applied. During the time of the experiment on the right eye, the left eye possessed its usual range of vision, but the sight, when both eyes were open, was rather confused, in consequence of the unequal foci of the two eyes; and it did not become clear until the pupil of the right eye recovered its usual power of contracting, which power was not acquired till the third day after the application of the belladonna.

It is remarkable that a different effect is sometimes produced on a near sighted eye by the application of the belladonna, from that which it has on an eye that enjoys a distant sight. Dr. Wells made an experiment of this kind on a friend of his, who was near sighted; and he informs us, in the paper above referred to, that in this instance, the nearest point of perfect vision was moved forwards during the dilatation of the pupil, whilst its remote point remained unaltered. I have made a similar experiment on the eyes of several such persons; and though in two of these the result appeared to be similar to that which has been mentioned by Dr. WELLS, yet,


in the greater number, their sight, like that of those who were not myopic, has become more distant as the pupil became more dilated.-In one gentleman, in whom the lines of the optometer appeared to meet at four inches and a quarter from the

eye, the pupil, in half an hour after the application of the belladonna, became completely dilated, and in consequence of this the sight at first was confused; but both on that day, and for two days afterwards, it was evidently more distant, and the apparent lines on the optometer could not be made to meet nearer than seven inches from the eye. In a young lady, seventeen years


age, whose right eye was so near sighted that the apparent lines on the optometer met at two inches and three quarters from the eye, these lines, when the pupil was dilated (which took place in a small degree in less than half an hour), could not be made to meet in less than three inches and a quarter; and on the following day, the pupil being more dilated, the lines did not meet till they were at the distance of nearly four inches.-In a third instance, viz. that of a lady forty-five years of age, who had been remarkably near sighted from her infancy, and for many years had used concave glasses of the fifteenth number, (which number is ground on each side, upon a tool the radius of which is only three inches,) the sight was become so confused in both eyes, that she saw nothing distinctly, and was unable to read letters, of the size that are used in the printed Transactions of the Royal Society, either with or without a glass. In this case, after the pupils had been dilated by the application of the belladonna, the sight was so much improved that she was able to read a print of the abovementioned size at the distance of two inches with either eye. I do not insist, however, on the present case, because, though there was not any visible opacity in the crystalline, this sometimes exists in a small degree without being perceptible even to an attentive observer; and it may be doubted whether the amendment in the lady's vision, were not occasioned solely by the retraction of the iris from before a part of the crystalline that was not yet become opaque: it being well known that the outer part of this lens not unfrequently retains its transparency for some time after an opacity has commenced in the part that surrounds its


It is evident, that near sightedness has no dependence on the greater or smaller degree of convexity possessed by the cornea, when this circumstance is considered alone; since the length of the axis of the eye from the cornea to the retina, and the greater or smaller degree of convexity in the crystalline humour, must be also regarded, before the distance of accurate vision can be determined.

It is no less evident, that near sightedness is not necessarily occasioned by a morbid protrusion of the whole eye; since some persons are born with eyes of this description, and others acquire the peculiarity, when further advanced in life, in consequence of a morbid accumulation of adeps at the bottom of the orbit, without either of them being more near sighted than those who are free from this imperfection.

I have seen many instances in which old persons, who have been long accustomed to use convex glasses of considerable power, have recovered their former sight at the advanced age of eighty or ninety years, and have then had no further need of them. Dr. PORTERFIELD was of opinion that in such cases MDCCCXIII.



the amendment is occasioned by a decay of adeps at the bottom of the orbit; in consequence of which the eye, from a want

, of the usual support behind, is brought, by the pressure of the muscles on its sides, into a kind of oval figure, in which state the retina is removed to its due focal distance from the flattened cornea. But if a morbid absorption of adeps at the bottom of the orbit were sufficient to restore the presbyopic to a good sight, it might be expected, that a morbid accumulation of adeps in this part would produce a presbyopic or distant sight. This, however, has not happened in any of the cases that have come under my notice. On the contrary, in some such persons a degree of near sightedness has been induced by the accumulation ; and in others the sight, with regard to distance, has not been affected by it. It appears to me more probable, that this remarkable revolution in the sight of old persons is occasioned by an absorption of part of the vitreous humour; in consequence of which, the sides of the sclerotica are pressed inward, and the axis of the eye, by this lateral pressure, is proportionably lengthened. An alteration of this kind is also sufficient to explain the reason, why such aged persons retain the power of distinguishing objects at a distance, at the same time that they recover the faculty of seeing those that are near; since the lengthened axis of the eye leaves the power by which it is adjusted to see at different distances, precisely in the same state, in which it was before the lengthening of the axis took place. *

• Dr. Young, in the paper to which I alluded in page 38, has described a great number of ingenious experiments devised by him, to shew that the faculty of seeing at different distances is produced by a power in the crystalline humour, to become more or less convex, according as the object is more or less distant from the eye.

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