Letter | Published:

Alternate Vision


MR. GALTON'S remark (NATURE, vol. xviii. p. 98), that “sometimes the image seen by the left eye prevails over that seen by the right, and vice versâ,” leads me to describe a curious defect in my own eyesight, which in a different way confirms what he says. While my right eye is fairly long-sighted, my left eye is very short-sighted. For instance, the focal distance of my right eye for your leader type is 18 inches, and for the left eye only 8¼ inches. For your letter type the focal distance for the one is 16 inches, and for the other 6½ inches. This is by the light of a Duplex lamp, and by focal distance, I mean the distance at which I can see distinctly. The result of this inequality in my two eyes is that the right—or long-sighted one—involuntarily closes when I read, and I am not aware of its being shut, except when some one who is a stranger to the peculiarity calls attention to it. During the day, however, in looking about both eyes are generally open, though when I look intently at a distant view, I find the short-sighted eye shuts occasionally. But in a general way both eyes are open, and I have two distinct images presented to my brain, one blurred and indistinct, even for faces a yard distant, and the other clearly defined, I believe, to the usual distances. How is it that my brain or mind rejects the blurred image and chooses the distinct one, so that I see everything perfectly clearly. If I get a piece of dust in the good eye, or close it, I immediately see the blurred image, and if this take place in the street, it causes a painful degree of confusion as to distances, &c., so that I am often brought to a standstill by such an occurrence. That both images really are presented to the brain I know. For instance, in travelling by train I frequently amuse myself by placing my eyes so that the short-sighted eye sees a portion of a scene through the window, without the good eye being able to see it. Then I see the blurred image only; but as the train moves the blurred is replaced by the bright one, as the good eye gets to work. The blurred image always appears at a higher level than the other, and it is the same when I shut my good eye for a moment and look at the fire with my bad one. On reopening the good one the blurred fire appears slightly above the bright one, and the latter almost instantly drives the indistinct image away—like a dissolving view. Things appear, as a rule, much flatter to me than to people who enjoy binocular vision. I know this because I have a pair of spectacles so arranged as to equalise my sights. When I put them on, objects like trees put on a delightful fulness and roundness to which I am usually quite a stranger, and the effect is most charming. I may add that two of my brothers have a similar defect of vision.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.