Dr. W. H. Bates
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William Horatio Bates was born on December 27th in Newark, New Jersey. He was the son of Charles (a Clerk in the Treasury) and Amelia. His grandparents were Horatio and Elizabeth Bates.

A successful Eye Surgeon


In 1885 William H Bates graduated with a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.  Dr Bates became a successful and well-respected eye surgeon in New York, where he was an instructor of ophthalmology at the New York Postgraduate Medical School and Hospital from 1886 to 1891.

Became Increasingly Dissatisfied


Dr Bates became increasingly dissatisfied with conventional ophthalmological practice, and he consequently began his own research into eyesight disorders.  He had observed patients with refractive errors (e.g. short or long sight) that seemed to spontaneously change for the better, sometimes to the point of a complete reversal of symptoms.

Dr. Bates Questioned Ophthalmology Theories


This led him to question one of the most basic assumptions of the accepted practice of ophthalmology; namely, that once symptoms of refractive error were present in a particular patient, then nothing could be done other than prescribing glasses. Dr Bates was not satisfied with the prevailing theory of accommodation - that the curvature of the lens of the eye is the only part responsible for accommodation and that it is its inflexibility that causes refractive errors.

He also Queried and Opposed the Prescribing of Glasses


For years Dr Bates felt there was something wrong about the procedure of prescribing glasses to patients who came to him about their eye problems.   


"Why," he asked, "if glasses are correct, must they continually be strengthened because the eyes, under their influence, have weakened?  Logically, if a medicine is good, the dose should be weakened as the patient grows stronger."

Gave up his practice


Dr Bates gave up his lucrative practice and went into the laboratory at Columbia University to study eyes and disregarded all he had learned from textbooks.

Examined Thousands of Pairs of Eyes


Bates ran experiments on animals and examined thousands of pairs of eyes.  He never restricted himself to the usual eye examination room, but carried his retinoscope with him, inspecting the refractive state of eyes of both people and animals in many different situations. Much of this time was spent with children attempting to discover the cause of eyesight disorders. 

Eyesight varies with state of mind


Bates examined eyes of people when they were happy, sad, angry and afraid. By using the retinoscope he found the refractive state of the eye was not the static condition textbooks reported, but varied tremendously with the emotional state.

He cured his own Presbyopia


In his 1920 book Perfect Sight Without Glasses, Dr Bates writes about his own eyesight improvement.  He had been researching myopia and found himself becoming more and more presbyopic.


He was told by various eye specialists that his lens was "as hard as a stone" and that "no one can do anything for you."  Except one doctor said that "only one doctor could cure him and that was Dr. Bates".


By studying his own case intensively he started to find ways of preventing eye strain each time he read and regained an ability to focus on N5 print from 4 to 18 inches away and cured his presbyopia.