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  #1  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:26 PM
spunkymuzicnote spunkymuzicnote is offline
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How did people handle blurry vision prior to corrective lenses?

Being "four-eyes" myself, and having a whole family that wears either glasses or contacts, leads me to considered how people made due prior to the common use of corrective lenses. For example, way back in the Middle Ages, or even back to the pyramids, did people have to deal with the same blurry vision that many of us deal with today? It seems like it would be a big disadvantage in the race of survival of the fittest. Wouldn't the gene for bad vision be weeded out? Or is vision here in the 21st century (admittedly damaged by TV and computer) so much worse than it was way back when? What sorts of coping skills did people use back then?
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  #2  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:30 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Until people had to read things, I doubt that blurry vision was much of a problem. Without my glasses, I can see well enough to do things like work a farm, or cook. You just get used to the blurriness and compensate.
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  #3  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:44 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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I discovered the "pinhole" effect on my own, as a young'un. Curl up your forefinger really tight, to make a pinhole, and look through that. It helps. Squinting also helps. Whether or not people in antiquity developed a pinhole effect, they certainly knew to squint.

Trinopus (a tad deaf, too...)
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  #4  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:51 PM
Martin Hyde Martin Hyde is offline
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For most people it wouldn't matter much. Keep in mind for most of civilization's history 99% of the population never traveled anywhere. Immanuel Kant in his entire 80+ years never went more than a day's horse ride from his home town of Koenigsberg. And that isn't strange at all, most people never went far from their home village/town. Most people were farmers and tied to the land either by law or by the simple fact that before the modern age even if you were free to move you couldn't really do it because a farm is insane back breaking labor all day long prior to the industrial revolution, and if you weren't there doing it no one else was and your family starved to death.

You could easily compensate for blurry vision just because you'd pretty much know every square foot you ever walked on on a regular basis.

You wouldn't be an archer in the King's army or probably a very good professional soldier or anything, but most likely you would never be in such a position anyway.
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Old 10-26-2011, 09:53 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Since the life expectancy was much shorter then, and many vision problems worsen with age, I imagine it wasn't as much of a problem for elderly 30 year olds.

I know someone whose vision is poor and uncorrectable; she can't read the temperature on the oven or the instructions on a food box, so she asks her husband to read it for her. They had husbands even in the Middle Ages, so I've been told.
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  #6  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:56 PM
MsWhatsit MsWhatsit is offline
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Until people had to read things, I doubt that blurry vision was much of a problem. Without my glasses, I can see well enough to do things like work a farm, or cook. You just get used to the blurriness and compensate.
My vision is bad enough that without my glasses on, I can't even find my glasses. (Seriously. I have to leave them in the exact same spot every night or I wind up just sliding my hand along the top of the dresser hoping to find them.) I can't recognize people from more than a foot or two away. I can't safely navigate stairs because my depth perception gets all shitty, etc. So would I have just been dead at an early age or considered an invalid or what?
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  #7  
Old 10-26-2011, 09:58 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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My vision is bad enough that without my glasses on, I can't even find my glasses. (Seriously. I have to leave them in the exact same spot every night or I wind up just sliding my hand along the top of the dresser hoping to find them.) I can't recognize people from more than a foot or two away. I can't safely navigate stairs because my depth perception gets all shitty, etc. So would I have just been dead at an early age or considered an invalid or what?
You would have been considered near blind. But people compensate for that. Do you have a cute earring?
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  #8  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:15 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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My vision is bad enough that without my glasses on, I can't even find my glasses. (Seriously. I have to leave them in the exact same spot every night or I wind up just sliding my hand along the top of the dresser hoping to find them.) I can't recognize people from more than a foot or two away. I can't safely navigate stairs because my depth perception gets all shitty, etc. So would I have just been dead at an early age or considered an invalid or what?
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that your vision simply wouldn't have become this bad had you grown up in that era. Sure, you'd still be near-sighted, but isn't our constant reading, close work, and time spent indoors largely responsible for the modern epidemic of myopia?

I have feel around for my glasses, too, or just put my face one inch above the surface I'm searching.
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:16 PM
MsWhatsit MsWhatsit is offline
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Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that your vision simply wouldn't have become this bad had you grown up in that era. Sure, you'd still be near-sighted, but isn't our constant reading, close work, and time spent indoors largely responsible for the modern epidemic of myopia?

I have feel around for my glasses, too, or just put my face one inch above the surface I'm searching.
Maybe, but I got my first pair of glasses when I was 9, and my vision's been about as bad as it is now since my early teens. In my case I suspect some genetic influence.
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  #10  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:20 PM
taffygirl taffygirl is offline
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Of course you could get by without corrective lenses if you were just mildly visually impaired in the Middle Ages. As someone who's struggled with some serious vision issues (six major surgeries and several minor procedures), the question as to how people coped is one that has interested me for some time. One eye surgeon told me there's some speculation over whether the incidence of nearsightedness was as great then as it is today, but I don't think there's any way to substantiate that--and the guy was a surgeon, not an historian. I don't suppose we'll ever know with any degree of certainty.

It probably was no less prevalent than it was in ancient times, however. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, "Blindness was widespread in the ancient Middle East." http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/...3_0_03089.html

The possibilities are 1) Vision problems were less common back in the day. 2) There were a lot of people who couldn't see well but managed to stumble along. 3) There were, in fact, a number of blind people, if by "blind" we mean, "people who could not see well enough to adequately function without help."

Whatever the incidence, there was certainly no way to adequately compensate for serious impairment. Squinting, while natural, would only be entirely satisfactory for people with very mild impairment. Pinholes are helpful only for people whose vision impairment is due to astigmatism, as has been explained to me by ophthalmologists.I have used the pinhole effect after surgeries, while my corneas had a lot of surface irregularities--useful while stationary, but it's tough to walk around safely. According to Wikipedia, the use of magnifying lenses or glasses dates back to ancient times, but it seems to me they would have only been valuable for "close work," not distance, until spectacles were invented and refined. I think there were quite a few blind people, and many more who just couldn't see very well, especially in middle and old age. I would have been one of the former--yet another reason I'm glad I was born in the 20th instead of the 12th cuentury.
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  #11  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:24 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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Originally Posted by spunkymuzicnote View Post
Wouldn't the gene for bad vision be weeded out?
How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
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  #12  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:24 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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Maybe, but I got my first pair of glasses when I was 9, and my vision's been about as bad as it is now since my early teens. In my case I suspect some genetic influence.
I'm sure part of it is genetic, not to mention the fact that people with poor vision are more likely than ever to pass on their bad vision genes. However, you were presumably reading, spending large amounts of time indoors, and doing "close work" from the age of 3 or 4. Plenty of time to exacerbate your vision problems by age 9.
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  #13  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:29 PM
Erdosain Erdosain is offline
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How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
Well, if your vision is bad enough, you're not quite sure of what's going where.

But seriously, if you are blind enough to have problems getting around, your marriage prospects and ability to support a family are going to be seriously limited in the age before corrective lenses.
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  #14  
Old 10-26-2011, 10:32 PM
Martian Bigfoot Martian Bigfoot is offline
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How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
Heck, might even be beneficial, if you can't see what she looks like.
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  #15  
Old 10-26-2011, 11:07 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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in the Middle Ages people with money had seeing eye peasants.
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  #16  
Old 10-27-2011, 01:07 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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There's a story that one of the Roman emperors (Nero, I think) discovered that he could see much better when he held a big jewel against his eye. The way it was cut just happened to mimic a corrective lens by chance.
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  #17  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:03 AM
si_blakely si_blakely is offline
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There was an interesting factoid on a QI episode recently - the Chinese did not develop or adopt eyeglasses or magnifying lenses until quite late (15th century according to wikipedia). This meant that academic developments proceeded much slower, as age and eyesight became limiting factors much earlier than for european thinkers who could work on into old age by using glasses.

Si
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  #18  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:26 AM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is online now
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Indigenous populations tend to have lower incidence of myopia. As they become more integrated into modern society, their myopia increases:

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2003; 101: 107112. "A myopic shift in Australian Aboriginals: 1977-2000" by Hugh R Taylor, T A Robin, V C Lansingh, L M Weih, and J E Keeffe
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Originally Posted by Taylor et al
In general, indigenous populations have lower rates of myopia, but these rates have been reported to be increasing. In 1977, we reported much lower rates of myopia in Australian Aboriginals than in Australians of European descent. ...There appears to have been a significant shift toward myopia in Australian Aboriginals between 1977 and 2000. The cause of this myopic shift is unknown but mirrors that observed in other populations in recent years.
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Originally Posted by taffygirl
Pinholes are helpful only for people whose vision impairment is due to astigmatism, as has been explained to me by ophthalmologists.
I'm not sure why they say this. Photographers know that a narrower aperture increases depth of field. Though you noted that it's tough to walk around safely - that I can agree with: by necessity the field of vision becomes rather narrow.


Raise a glass to cataract surgeons as well.
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  #19  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:35 AM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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Since the life expectancy was much shorter then, and many vision problems worsen with age, I imagine it wasn't as much of a problem for elderly 30 year olds.
grrrr.

30 year olds weren't 'elderly'. Average life expectancy was short due to infant mortality and childhood diseases. Those who made it out of those bottlenecks weren't dropping dead at 30.
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Old 10-27-2011, 03:47 AM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is online now
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grrrr.

30 year olds weren't 'elderly'. Average life expectancy was short due to infant mortality and childhood diseases. Those who made it out of those bottlenecks weren't dropping dead at 30.
Qualification: Life expectancy was lower among adults as well, though yes infant mortality drove much of reduction in life expectancy at birth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy

During the Upper Paleolithic age, life expectancy at age 15 was... 54. (33 at birth). In Ancient Rome, life expectancy at 15 was... 52 (28 at birth).
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  #21  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:53 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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People who were blind or virtually so had seeing-eye people, either family or servants. The Spanish name for a blind person's guide is lazarillo, derived from the 16th-century novel El Lazarillo de Tormes, whose eponymous protagonist is such a guide for a beggar/yellow-press bard/all-around rogue.

Keep in mind that "blurry vision afar" and "blurry vision close up" have very different consequences in daily life: if you were myopic (blurry afar) you'd be shit at shooting a bow or watching for pirates/invading armies but it wouldn't hurt your sewing, painting or writing at all. Conversely, if you had hypermetropy (blurry close up), it wouldn't affect your shooting but you'd never become an illustrator. People with relatively-bad but not awfully-bad sight would go into trades or split tasks in the way that made most sense.

Last edited by Nava; 10-27-2011 at 03:53 AM..
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  #22  
Old 10-27-2011, 04:14 AM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
Qualification: Life expectancy was lower among adults as well, though yes infant mortality drove much of reduction in life expectancy at birth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy

During the Upper Paleolithic age, life expectancy at age 15 was... 54. (33 at birth). In Ancient Rome, life expectancy at 15 was... 52 (28 at birth).
True.

My pet peeve is the idea that because life expectancy was lower, people must have suffered from geriatric issues at a younger age than now. In ancient Rome, I wonder how much of the lowered life expectancy at age 15 (adults) was due to warfare? Also what is the definition of 'ancient Rome'?

Last edited by Quintas; 10-27-2011 at 04:19 AM..
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:17 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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In ancient Rome, I wonder how much of the lowered life expectancy at age 15 was due to warfare?
Or to cancer, stomach ulcers, gout, tuberculosis...
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Old 10-27-2011, 04:26 AM
Quintas Quintas is offline
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Or to cancer, stomach ulcers, gout, tuberculosis...
Cancer, im not sure. Whats the average age a person with no medical care dies of cancer in modern times? Probably similar back then.

I'm guessing the big factor in lowering life expectancy upon reaching adulthood was war. But then its a matter of defining 'ancient Rome'. Are you talking about a person in the 1st century or a person during the punic wars?
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Old 10-27-2011, 05:03 AM
UDS UDS is online now
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Cancer, im not sure. Whats the average age a person with no medical care dies of cancer in modern times? Probably similar back then.

I'm guessing the big factor in lowering life expectancy upon reaching adulthood was war. But then its a matter of defining 'ancient Rome'. Are you talking about a person in the 1st century or a person during the punic wars?
Actually, the big factor lowering life exectancy on reaching adulthood was pregnancy and childbirth, though of course that only affected half the population. War lowered life expectancy for men, but not to the same extent. Both sexes died in agricultural accidents.
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Old 10-27-2011, 05:08 AM
Toxylon Toxylon is offline
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Indigenous populations tend to have lower incidence of myopia. As they become more integrated into modern society, their myopia increases:

Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2003; 101: 107112. "A myopic shift in Australian Aboriginals: 1977-2000" by Hugh R Taylor, T A Robin, V C Lansingh, L M Weih, and J E Keeffe
The same phenomena has been recorded among the Inuit and the Saami: among the former, myopia increased 5 to 10 times with the transition from traditional to semi-urban lifestyle. Some of the traditional Inuit groups studied had no myopic individuals, even among the semi-elderly, whereas short-sightedness is common in most age groups among them now. Diet is a suspected culprit, as is artificial lighting and lack of outdoor activities, but no-one knows for sure.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1956268/

http://http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0420.1997.tb00639.x/abstract

the diet angle as a possible cause of modern myopia

More evidence from a recent study on modern kids


Eye problems were certainly there throughout human history, but it does seem that blurry vision was much less of a problem in the distant past than it is now. Yes, a farmer or a skilled tradesman can make do with bad eyesight, but hunting and gathering (the first 90 % of our story) is another matter. Both of these activities often rely on picking up tiny detail on the ground, in the vegetation etc. Doesn't take much of myopia to be unable to spot a motionless animal hiding in the bush close by, or to be unable to say if the plants "over there" are of the edible or of the quite-similar poisonous variety. I know I was pretty useless with a bow in the woods unless I had corrective lenses on (before I had my eyes fixed). And this is just H-G kindergarten stuff. Tracking game animals, reading the water, taking a tactical win over alert animals in semi-open country etc. is something that just can't be done without a sharp eyesight.
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  #27  
Old 10-27-2011, 07:04 AM
lazybratsche lazybratsche is offline
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How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
Probably to some degree. I've got eyesight just barely good enough to walk around without killing myself, as long as there aren't any hazards. (I'm so nearsighted that I can't really recognize people or even read without my glasses). If I was performing heavy labor as a peasant child? I think there was a good chance that I would have died in some accident. As an adult, I wouldn't be able to do any fine craft, though maybe I could do something that relies more on tactile feedback.

And I'd also guess that my marriage prospects would be harmed by being so blind as to be an invalid.

So I'd think there'd be a fairly strong selection against people with eyesight as bad as mine (greater than minus seven diopters). But less severe eysight problems (plus or minus two diopters maybe) probably wasn't a very significant problem.

Last edited by lazybratsche; 10-27-2011 at 07:06 AM..
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  #28  
Old 10-27-2011, 08:29 AM
Manda JO Manda JO is offline
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Actually, the big factor lowering life exectancy on reaching adulthood was pregnancy and childbirth, though of course that only affected half the population. War lowered life expectancy for men, but not to the same extent. Both sexes died in agricultural accidents.
I suspect that epidemics would lower life expectancies in big chunks, skewing the sample. But the central idea still stands: just because someone was likely to die by 50 doesn't mean they were elderly at 55. However, hard physical labor, vast amounts of time spent in the sun, and no effective treatments for things like arthritis and other joint issues probably meant that the average 40 year old in 1500 looked older than the average 40 year old today. But they didn't keel over from old age at 50.
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  #29  
Old 10-27-2011, 08:40 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I discovered the "pinhole" effect on my own, as a young'un. Curl up your forefinger really tight, to make a pinhole, and look through that. It helps. Squinting also helps. Whether or not people in antiquity developed a pinhole effect, they certainly knew to squint.

Trinopus (a tad deaf, too...)
I have a photograph of a pair of metal "pinhole glasses" from India. Unfortunately, they're not dated, and I don't know their provenance, but I suspect that this principle has long been known. I have a suspicion that people used to make single pinhole "monocles" or "lornettes" out of materials like bone, leather, shell, and suchlike, but that these have either deteriorated over time, or have not been recognized as what they were.



There have been ancient lenses discovered, although there is for some reason a hard-core contingent of scholars that rabidly believes that they are simply misidentified items that couldn't possibly be used as corrective devices. On the other hand, there's a large contingent of generally non-scholars who make outrageous claims for optics in the ancient world (saying that one Mesopotamian lens is clearly a corrective lens made for a particular prescription, or that the Greeks had telescopes). The truth, I strongly suspect, lies between these twoIt's likely that some lenses were used, but that they were rare and relatively expensive. Inriguingly, one of those people who makes the wild claims makes one that is elatively believable -- there are hollow glass globes found in Roman ruins. They have a small hole in them. If you fill them with water, they make excellent magnifiers (the water tends not to escape through the small hole). Such things were easily made, and using water instead of solid glass would go far in countering the poor quality of ancient glass -- filled with bubbles, striae, and inclusions. (And the Romans did use suspended oil lamps made of glass spheres that would have also demonstrated the principle).

Quote:
There's a story that one of the Roman emperors (Nero, I think) discovered that he could see much better when he held a big jewel against his eye. The way it was cut just happened to mimic a corrective lens by chance.
Thi is well-known because of Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel Quo Vadis?, which features this item. It showede up in the 1950s movie, with Peter Ustinov as Nero looking through his jewel, which was there represented as simply a green stone that imparted a green color to the things he loked at. It's taken from a omment by Pliny the Elder about Nero watching the gladiators through an emerald. Although lots of places cite this as an early example of a corrective lens, it's b no means certain exactly what it was, or how it was used.

http://cora.ucc.ie/bitstream/10468/3...eroEmerald.pdf
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  #30  
Old 10-27-2011, 08:49 AM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Since the life expectancy was much shorter then, and many vision problems worsen with age, I imagine it wasn't as much of a problem for elderly 30 year olds.
People lived to advanced ages of 80 or 90 then; 30 was not elderly. Life expectancy was low because of high infant mortality. 30-year-olds didn't just drop dead.
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Old 10-27-2011, 08:50 AM
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This relates to a comment I read once, suggesting the "seniors" of Roman times were respected percisely becaue, by our definition, they were not. A old person in Rome would be about 55 and outlive a lot of his peers, but if properly fed and healthy he would still be a formidable soldier with the experience to compensate for his age... rather than some grizzled hunched-over 80-year-old.

people with vision problems either found an ocupation that suited them, or died. Odds are ther was some selection against vsion problems - but like issues such as diabetes and hemophilia, it seems there are enough spontaneous newbies mutating into the system to compensate for those dropping off. Now, those too are repoducing.
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  #32  
Old 10-27-2011, 09:10 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by taffygirl View Post
Pinholes are helpful only for people whose vision impairment is due to astigmatism, as has been explained to me by ophthalmologists.
You need to find another opthamologist. A pinhole, while reducing the total amount of light passed, is essentially a spherical lens, and has nothing to do with cylindrical abberations, i.e., astigmatism.
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People lived to advanced ages of 80 or 90 then; 30 was not elderly. Life expectancy was low because of high infant mortality. 30-year-olds didn't just drop dead.
Good point, and one others have brought up in this thread already.
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  #33  
Old 10-27-2011, 10:26 AM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is online now
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I would think that in hunter gathering days most people with poor eyesight were killed by animals at a young age. It's a jungle out there after all.
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  #34  
Old 10-27-2011, 11:21 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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I think we forget how many people died of infectious diseases. I and my two siblings all lost our appendixes before the age of reproduction and my wife's grandfather died of appendicitis in the early days of the 20th. Cities could not reproduce their population and depended on immigration from the countryside until public sanitation and clean water which didn't happen until the mid 19th (and was just as fiercely resisted as medicare is today).

I have a good friend who grew up in Georgia and whose parents simply refused to believe that he needed glasses and wouldn't get them for him. He discovered that he could see better using a peephole made from his thumbs and forefingers. When his parents caught him doing that, they would chastise him, still believing that it was some sort of attention getting behavior on his part. Astigmatism was not his problem--or at least not his main problem, so whatever that ophthalmologist said, he was blowing smoke.

As for the OP, I do think that reading and other close work encourages myopia. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I had the following experience (and maybe someone could study it further to get data). I got my first glasses in third grade, but starting in fifth grade I used an optometrist who believed that if you left the correction a bit weak, you would discourage the myopia from worsening. FWIW, I was still wearing the same glasses I got at age 14 until my grandson stepped on and mangled them when I was nearly 60. Most of my contemporaries were getting stronger glasses almost every year. They were 20-40 in my left eye and 20-50 in the right.
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  #35  
Old 10-27-2011, 01:03 PM
pohjonen pohjonen is offline
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in the Middle Ages people with money had seeing eye peasants.
*snort*

A good one liner should never go unrewarded.

Last edited by pohjonen; 10-27-2011 at 01:05 PM..
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  #36  
Old 10-27-2011, 01:17 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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... I was still wearing the same glasses I got at age 14 until my grandson stepped on and mangled them when I was nearly 60.
What, he didn't see them?
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  #37  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:08 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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There's several references in the old testament of older men eyes going dim. I assume they had developed cataracts?

Vision problems have been with us for awhile.
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  #38  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:14 PM
MsWhatsit MsWhatsit is offline
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Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post

As for the OP, I do think that reading and other close work encourages myopia. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I had the following experience (and maybe someone could study it further to get data). I got my first glasses in third grade, but starting in fifth grade I used an optometrist who believed that if you left the correction a bit weak, you would discourage the myopia from worsening. FWIW, I was still wearing the same glasses I got at age 14 until my grandson stepped on and mangled them when I was nearly 60. Most of my contemporaries were getting stronger glasses almost every year. They were 20-40 in my left eye and 20-50 in the right.
My childhood optometrist believed the same and left me slightly undercorrected, same as yours. My eyesight worsened yearly until it stabilized somewhere around age 20. I've had the same prescription for the last 15 years. I think your eyesight just happened to stabilize a bit earlier. That's JMO, though. I'm not an expert.
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  #39  
Old 10-27-2011, 03:17 PM
Kenm Kenm is offline
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Regarding the Romans and age, big Julie was 56 when he was killed, so the plotters weren't prepared to wait for the inevitable; it could have been quite a while.

Wikipedia says 16- to 46-year olds were conscripted during the Samnite War. Other sources say 17- to 48-year olds. I've read that even 60-year-olds could be conscripted if they were healthy, though now I can't find the source for that.

I wonder if the Roman army employed oculists to examine recruites. Maybe the chart read

Video
maculae
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  #40  
Old 10-27-2011, 05:16 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by Martin Hyde View Post
For most people it wouldn't matter much. Keep in mind for most of civilization's history 99% of the population never traveled anywhere. Immanuel Kant in his entire 80+ years never went more than a day's horse ride from his home town of Koenigsberg. And that isn't strange at all
That was in the 18th century, and for a prosperous, and, indeed, famous, Western European at that time it undoubtedly was very strange. That, indeed, is why the story is repeated. To show that Kant was interestingly weird (in modern terms, he was an uber-nerd).

What is more, spectacles were invented back in the 13th century (i.e., in the middle ages) according to Wikipedia, and were certainly in quite common use well before Kant's time.

In the rest of your post, however, you do not seem to be talking about 18th century professors, but about medieval peasants. No doubt you are right that they did not travel very much, and that (together with their general illiteracy, and other facts about their lifestyle) may indeed have meant that they did not have much need for glasses. Kant's behavior is emphatically not an instance of this, however.

Last edited by njtt; 10-27-2011 at 05:18 PM..
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  #41  
Old 10-27-2011, 05:21 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Do you have a cute earring?
I should guess that if she has any, she probably has at least two.
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  #42  
Old 10-27-2011, 06:11 PM
smokey78 smokey78 is offline
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Before glasses were in popular use, I guess most middle ages folks were just considered blind. How sad!

Technically I can get by w/o glasses if I didn't have to drive and read chalkboards. SO I could have survived in the Middle Ages just pickin potatoes and such.
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  #43  
Old 10-27-2011, 08:51 PM
aruvqan aruvqan is offline
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Originally Posted by Measure for Measure View Post
Raise a glass to cataract surgeons as well.
The Romans had cataract operations and diverse opthalomological medications.
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Old 10-27-2011, 09:48 PM
digs digs is offline
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Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
I've got one really bad eye, and one mediocre eye. Since I was a rug rat, I've compensated for blurriness (and a lack of depth perception).

And I don't wear glasses. Which has actually helped me reproduce.

(My wife looks pretty good, to me...)
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  #45  
Old 10-27-2011, 10:03 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quintas View Post
In ancient Rome, I wonder how much of the lowered life expectancy at age 15 (adults) was due to warfare?
I don't know, but the pattern extends to other pre- 1800 societies.
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
Or to cancer, stomach ulcers, gout, tuberculosis...
You missed the big category: infectious disease. That was curbed by public health and sanitation during the 1800s and early 1900s. Oddly, 20th century antibiotics are much less than half of the story.
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
Life expectancy was low because of high infant mortality.
That's an exaggeration, one which is commonly believed.

Respectfully, you may want to refer to last year's thread, Was the lower life expectancy of yore pretty much all due to infant mortality? A: No, not all of it.

Last edited by Measure for Measure; 10-27-2011 at 10:04 PM..
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  #46  
Old 10-27-2011, 11:31 PM
TheBori TheBori is offline
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Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
How? Does bad vision prevent people from reproducing?
I'm convinced I would have been eaten by a bear. "Bob? Is that you?"....crunch.
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  #47  
Old 10-28-2011, 12:39 AM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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WAG

A lot of science and knowledge was lost after the Library of Alexandria was destroyed. It had to be relearned and discovered in the Middle Ages.

I've always thought corrective lens were a "lost" technology from the Greek & Roman days. They blew a lot of glass and I'm sure people noticed the magnifying effects. It's not that big a leap to holding a piece in front of your eye. They didn't have the technology for fine optics grinding but basic reader glasses like we buy in drug stores aren't that high tech.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
There's a story that one of the Roman emperors (Nero, I think) discovered that he could see much better when he held a big jewel against his eye. The way it was cut just happened to mimic a corrective lens by chance.

Last edited by aceplace57; 10-28-2011 at 12:42 AM..
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  #48  
Old 10-28-2011, 08:18 AM
taffygirl taffygirl is offline
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I didn't realize pinhole lenses would be helpful for myopia. I learned something! However, the ophthalmologists (Yeah, more than one; I've had to see a lot of specialists.) who had me using them short-term for post-surgical astigmatism were also correct

Quote:
Pinhole glasses reduce the blur of astigmatism by limiting the distance between the two points of light on the retina, thus helping sufferers to see more clearly.
The same site offers this on modern vs. historical vision problems:

Quote:
Recent studies have revealed that although myopia can be hereditary, it is also accentuated by chronic use of the eyes for short-distance focusing, such as when working at a computer screen. Evolution has programmed our eyes to naturally focus in the middle to long-distance when our eyes are at rest. To focus on close-up work our eye muscles must tense, thickening the eye lens, in order to focus the light rays upon the retina. Persistent or prolonged short-distance focusing causes pressure to increase in the vitreous chamber of the eye, thus elongating the eyeball.
So maybe some vision problems were less prevalent in ancient times.

http://www.pinhole-glasses.com/solut...complaints.htm
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  #49  
Old 10-28-2011, 08:29 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Originally Posted by Quintas View Post
In ancient Rome, I wonder how much of the lowered life expectancy at age 15 (adults) was due to warfare?
Well, one point that's often overlooked is that higher population density facilitates the spread of epidemic diseases. Come to think of it, the Roman road system might have contributed to that.
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  #50  
Old 10-28-2011, 12:21 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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Slight tangent:

In the Bible story of Leah and Rachel (wives of Jacob) in Genesis, Leah is described as being the less attractive sister at least in part because of her eyes. In some translations the word used is "weak." One explanation I heard was that she was very nearsighted, so she squinted, rendering herself less attractive.

Personal anecdote: I was very nearsighted since early childhood, although not diagnosed until about 3rd grade. I also spent a lot of time with my nose in a book. Which was cause and which effect? I sure couldn't see a ball well enough to try to hit it, that's for sure. But I could see the words in the book. Both my daughters also read well before kindergarten, and neither one has eyes anywhere near as bad as mine. In fact, my younger daughter is a regular eagle-eye. When we're driving somewhere, she picks up the words on road signs well before I do, even with my expensive corrective lenses.

In pre-history I imagine I'd have been the seamstress and she would have been the hunter/gatherer, given the chance.
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