A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Vision: How It Works and What Can Go Wrong


From the bookshelf

Vision: How It Works and What Can Go Wrong
By John E. Dowling, PhD, and Joseph L. Dowling Jr., MD ’47 GP’19
The MIT Press, 2016, $32

Vision is the dominant sense of the five we humans rely on to perceive the world; it’s no surprise that blindness is the disability people fear most. And in a structure as complex as the human eye, there’s a lot that can go wrong.

Joseph Dowling, a practicing ophthalmologist and clinical associate professor emeritus of surgery (ophthalmology) at Brown, and his brother John, a professor of ophthalmology (neuroscience) at Harvard, offer here a comprehensive, highly readable account of eye anatomy, function, dysfunction, and disease from their respective positions as clinician and researcher. Never stinting on the science, they keep the narrative humming with the history of eye research, a Milton sonnet, anecdotes from the late neurologist Oliver Sacks, MD, and even some optical illusions to demonstrate visual perception, like the famous vaseface picture. They close on a hopeful note, ticking off the many advances in research and patient care.

While acknowledging the challenges ahead, they write, “thousands of dedicated scientists worldwide are attacking these problems, and we have no doubt that amazing developments will soon appear for the cure of various causes of blindness and to the benefit of mankind.”


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