"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Why did the Victorians fear that modern technology would make everyone blind?

By ending concerns Blue light To Digital stress And Dryness, today's headlines often concern how smartphones and computer screens are affecting our eye health. But while the technology could also be recent, this concern actually isn't. Since Victorian times, people have been concerned about how recent inventions can damage eyesight.

In the 1800s, the rise of large-scale print was blamed for a rise in eye problems and was also answerable for a dramatic increase in vision impairment. As the variety of known eye problems increased, the Victorians predicted that without proper care and a focus Britain's population would grow to be blind. In 1884, an article within the Morning Post newspaper suggested that:

Efforts to enhance the culture of the attention and the college of seeing have to be a matter of thought and motion, as long as the deterioration is to proceed and future generations are not looking for to grope concerning the darkness of the world.

The nineteenth century was the time when Ophthalmology became a more prominent field. of health care. New diagnostic technologies, Like test charts were introduced and have become lenses. A more viable treatment method For a spread of vision disorders. But though more vision problems were being effectively treated, the rise raised alarm, and it was felt vital to curtail any progress.

In 1889 the Illustrated London News asked:

Where are we coming from? … We at the moment are told by men of science that the eyes which our forefathers used so effectively is not going to suffice for us, and that England is more likely to be blind.

The article continued, considering possible causes of this acceleration, and concluded that it might be partially explained by evolution and heredity.

Urban myopia

Other commentators looked to “modern life” for an evidence, and described a spread of latest innovations corresponding to the built environment, the rise of printing, compulsory education, and steam power as so-called “defects of vision”. In 1892, an article published in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, reflected that the changing location and light-weight conditions of Victorian towns were an “extraordinary advantage” to the “decisively short-sighted average”. must be set against Similarly, many other newspapers reported on this trend and headlined it as “urban myopia”.

In 1898, a feature published within the Scottish Review – entitled “Paths of Modern Progress” – suggested that poor eyesight was “particularly the result of the present conditions of civilized life”. He highlighted that lots of the developments discussed within the context of “development” – including material prosperity, the expansion of industry and the rise of trade – had a detrimental effect on the body's nervous system and visual health.

Read JD Browning's 1887 book Our Eyes and Advice on How to Protect Them from Childhood to Old Age.
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Another concern of the time – Absurdity – was also linked to a rise in eye problems. Better transport links and recent recreational activities that required an individual to sit down down meant that folks had more time to read. Work also modified, lower class jobs shifted away from manual labor and the written word overtook the spoken. While we now concentrate on “screen time”, newspapers and magazines emphasized the negative effects of the “reading age” (book circulation and popular print).

Blame education

Likewise todaySchools were also blamed for the issue. Reading materials, lighting conditions, desk space, and the appearance of compulsory education were all related to increases in assessed conditions. English ophthalmologist Robert Brudnell Carter, in his government-led study, Eyesight in Schools, got here to the balanced conclusion that while education could also be an issue, more statistics are needed to completely assess the situation. Although Carter didn’t wish to “play the part of an alarmist,” several newspapers dramatized their coverage with phrases corresponding to “the evils of our school system.”

The problem with all these recent environmental conditions was that they were considered “artificial”. To emphasize this point, medical men often compare the implications of poor eye health to the superior vision of “savages” and the effect of confinement on the vision of animals. This led to a more negative interpretation of the connection between civilization and “development”, and conclusions were drawn to support the concept that a deteriorating outlook was a concomitant of the urban environment and modern leisure activities – typical features of the Western world. .

And yet the Victorians were undeterred, and continued with the very modern developments they blamed for eyesight problems. as an alternative, New safety glasses were developed. which sought to guard the attention from dust and flying particles, in addition to the intense lights of seaside resorts and artificial light at home.

Despite their fears, the country didn’t turn a blind eye. Nor, as predicted, is Britain any longer “an island full of round-backed, bleary-eyed bookworms”. While the stories reported today depend on more rigorous research with regards to screen time and eye health, it just goes to indicate that “modernity” has long been a priority.