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Sub auspiciis Academiae Ophthalmologicae Internationalis
Publisher: Springer Science & Business Media
When the eyeball is indented in total darkness, within less than 200 mil liseconds an oval or quarter-moon shaped spot of light is perceived in the part of the visual field corresponding to the indented region of the retina. In the seconds following, this phosphene extends across the whole visual field and alters in structure during further eyeball indentation. It is then seen as irregular large bright spots of light, finely structured moving light grains ('light nebula') and stationary bright stars. Regular geometrical patterns appear only when both eyes are indented simultaneously . When the eyeball deformation is released, part of the retina again lights up for another one or two seconds and curved light lines are seen following the course of the larger retinal vessels (Fig. 1). In the following we will review the history of this phenomenon, which played an important role during the first 2200 years of vision theories and in the development of models to explain normal vision. 2. Pre-Socratic philosophers, Plato and Aristotle Alcmaeon of Croton (6-5th century B. C. ), who was a member of the Pythagoraean sect and one of the founders of Greek medicine, was the first to describe mechanical deformation of the eyeball leading to light sensa tions. According to Aristotle's pupil Theophrast of Eresos, Alcmaeon report ed that 'the eye obviously has fire within,for when the eye is struckfireflashes out' [2, p. 88].
There have been books over the years discussing the history of ophthalmology, but none that focus directly on just the most critical thinkers whose insights provided the foundation for the discipline. These men and women advanced knowledge about vision, diagnosis, disease mechanisms, and therapy through innovative thinking and perseverance against old ideas. Their stories are intriguing at a personal level and for showing the complexity of advancing medical science and, therefore, should be required reading for anyone practicing ophthalmology. Foundations of Ophthalmology includes giants such as Young (the nature of color and light), Braille (a practical reading system for the blind), Helmholtz (development of the ophthalmoscope), von Graefe (defining glaucoma), Curie (discovery of radiation and the basis of radiation therapy), Gonin (demonstration how to cure retinal detachment), Ridley (serendipity that led to intraocular lenses), and Kelman (development of phacoemulsification that revolutionized cataract surgery).