Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
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XVIII. Contributions to the physiology of vision. —Part the first. On some remarkable, and hitherto unobserved, phenomena of binocular vision

    When an object is viewed at so great a distance that the optic axes of both eyes are sensibly parallel when directed towards it, the perspective projections of it, seen by each eye separately, are similar, and the appearance to the two eyes is precisely the same as when the object is seen by one eye only. There is, in such case, no difference between the visual appearance of an object in relief and its perspective projection on a plane surface; and hence pictorial representations of distant objects, when those circumstances which would prevent or disturb the illusion are carefully excluded, may be rendered such perfect resemblances of the objects they are intended to represent as to be mistaken for them; the Diorama is an instance of this. But this similarity no longer exists when the object is placed so near the eyes that to view it the optic axes must converge; under these conditions a different perspective projection of it is seen by each eye, and these perspectives are more dissimilar as the convergence of the optic axes becomes greater. This fact may be easily verified by placing any figure of three dimensions, an outline cube for instance, at a moderate distance before the eyes, and while the head is kept perfectly steady, viewing it with each eye successively while the other is closed. Plate XI. fig. 13. represents the two perspective projections of a cube; b is that seen by the right eye, and a that presented to the left eye; the figure being supposed to be placed about seven inches immediately before the spectator. The appearances, which are by this simple experiment rendered so obvious, may be easily inferred from the established laws of perspective; for the same object in relief is, when viewed by a different eye, seen from two points of sight at a distance from each other equal to the line joining the two eyes. Yet they seem to have escaped the attention of every philosopher and artist who has treated of the subjects of vision and perspective. I can ascribe this inattention to a phenomenon leading to the important and curious consequences, which will form the subject of the present communication, only to this circumstance; that the results being contrary to a principle which was very generally maintained by optical writers, viz. that objects can be seen single only when their images fall on corresponding points of the two retinæ, an hypothesis which will be hereafter discussed, if the consideration ever arose in their minds, it was hastily discarded under the conviction, that if the pictures presented to the two eyes are under certain circumstances dissimilar, their differences must be so small that they need not be taken into account.


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