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'The Ocular Developer', sight testing and sight improving apparatus, Birmingham, England, 1930-1933

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Invented by Robert Brooks Simpkins in the 1930s, ‘The Ocular Developer’ is an unusual device which promised to cure long sightedness, short sightedness, astigmatisms, old-age sight and squints. The Ocular Sight Company, who manufactured the apparatus, claimed each condition was caused by lazy or irregular movements of the eye muscles and could be cured by re-training these muscles. This picture shows the set up of the equipment to treat long and short sight by exercising the eye muscles. If the user could see the test plate clearly at 16 inches (40.6 cm), then he or she was deemed to have perfect vision. If the plate had to be moved closer, then the user had long sight; further away, and he or she must be short sighted. This model cost £8 19 shillings and 6 pence. ‘The Ocular Developer’ could, it was hoped, render glasses useless, removing the need for trips to the optician. It was also claimed to help in the treatment of cataracts and glaucoma. In this it clearly failed.

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Glossary: ophthalmology

The branch of medicine dealing with the diseases and surgery of the visual pathways (usually the eyes or the brain).

Glossary: sight testing apparatus

Apparatus used in tests on sight

Glossary: sight developing apparatus

apparatus designed to aid or improve sight or sight deficiencies, such as glasses or monacle.

Glossary: astigmatism

A condition where there is deviation in the curvature of the eye or the lens. This means that vision is distorted, as light rays cannot focus properly.

Glossary: cataract

Cloudiness on the lens of the eye impairing vision or causing blindness.