Destined for Distinguished Oblivion: The Scientific Vision of William Charles Wells (1757-1817)
My fIrst encounter with the name of William Charles Wells, over twenty years ago, was an oblique reference to his Essay upon single vision that Wheatstone (1838) made in a classical article on binocular vision. The reference was enigmatic because it stated that few had paid attention to Wells' theory of visual direction, while doing little to infonn the reader of its novelty. I was fortunate in having the excellent facility of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the Library at the University of St. Andrews near at hand, so that I could cousult a copy of Wells' monograph. However, I was not aware of the full import of its contents until Hiroshi Ono visited Dundee from York University, Ontario, in 1980. Hiroshi had previously fonnalised the principles of binocular visual direction that Hering (1879) had proposed. He returned one day from St. Andrews, having read Wells' Essay upon single vision, amazed to have found that Wells had perfonned similar experiments and reached similar conclusions to Hering. Hiroshi Ono has done much to bring Wells' work on binocular single vision to the notice of visual scientists, although its reception has not been without opposition. As I read more of Wells' work on vision I became aware of its breadth as well as its depth. In addition to his essay on binocular single vision, he wrote about and conducted experiments on accommodation, visual acuity, visual persistence, and vertigo.
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accommodation afterimages Aguilonius Alhazen apparent motion appear double appear single Baillie binocular single vision binocular vision binocular visual direction body rotation brain centre Chapter colour common axis consequence considered cornea corresponding points crystalline crystalline lens Darwin Descartes described distance distinct vision Erasmus Darwin Essay upon single evidence examined experimental eye movements Figure fixation Flourens giddiness head Helmholtz horopter illustration inclined left eye lens light Mach manner mentioned move muscles muscular Newton nineteenth century nystagmus objects appear observed optic axes optic nerves perceived perception perpendicular person phenomena philosophical physician plane Porterfield position postrotational pupil Purkinje rays reference refractive Reid respect retina retinal disparity right eye saccades seen semicircular canals sensations sense sight similar situation spectra speculations stereoscope stimulation studies thaumatrope theory vertigo vestibular vestibular system visible visual base visual direction visual motion visual persistence visual vertigo Wade Wheatstone Wheatstone's Young Zoonomia