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Image of the Week: Artificial Eyes

4 Apr, 2014

Artificial eyes

Q: What connects Shakespeare, Sammy Davies Junior and Nick Griffin?

A: Artificial eyes, as featured in this Image of the Week. Shakespeare wrote of them in King Lear – “get thee glass eyes; and, like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not” – whilst the other two either wore or wear one. And as this photograph shows, artificial eyes come in all different shapes, sizes, and colours.

Artificial eyes have a fascinating history – and one which reflects changes in their purpose and design.

To select just three points on this journey:

Egyptian mummies were frequently given artificial eyes, often made from plaster-filled bronze, and the purpose of them was to allow the dead to see once in their next life.

Glass eyes. We don’t know a precise date when these emerged. However, given Shakespeare’s reference to them it seems likely they were about from at least the early 17th century. They became increasingly common in the 19th century, and ocularists would stock different models in their stores for customers to try on and find a right fit.

Stepping forward to the modern day, recent innovations have seen artificial eyes that are able to replicate the movement of the pupil, and interact with living tissue.

Researchers are currently looking at ways of enabling artificial eyes to function near-fully like a standard eye, by using retinal implants to treat blindness. We’ll keep an eye out for news.

Image credit: Science Museum, London, Wellcome Images

Wellcome Images is one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Over 100,000 high resolution images from our historical collections are now free to use under the Creative Commons-Attribution only (CC-BY) licence.

One Comment leave one →
  1. lilpunk permalink
    7 Apr, 2014 10:52 am

    Reblogged this on Living in the Dragon's Belly and commented:
    of all the organs, eyes gross me out the most. i don’t know if its because we had to dissect a cow’s eye in secondary school and weird black fluid oozed out after I did it or if its because i’m uncomfortable about getting so close to someone in order to rule out papilledema that i’m almost kissing them during a physical exam. But in all honesty, most physicians these days can’t really see papilledema unless if you are an ophotmologist. and even then, their patients have had their eyes dilated, so its a bit of cheating, if you ask me. I mean, even I can do a proper eye exam if i dilate the patient’s eyes. but i can’t do that, do I?

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