A Natural History of Vision (Bradford Books)

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9780262731294: A Natural History of Vision (Bradford Books)
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This illustrated survey covers what Nicholas Wade calls the "observational era of vision," beginning with the Greek philosophers and ending with Wheatstone's description of the stereoscope in the late 1830s. This is the first history of vision to present extracts of the works of scholars, organized both topically and chronologically. In what has become the author's signature style, the book juxtaposes verbal and visual descriptions. Many of the more than three hundred illustrations are derived from engravings—of portraits of the scholars cited, as well as of scientific diagrams.

Each portrait appears beside a significant quotation by the scholar and the source of the original illustration. The author's commentary provides the context for the quotations and traces the scientific development within each topic. The book is organized around the principal topics within the investigation of visual phenomena: light, color, subjective visual phenomena (such as afterimages and pattern distortions), motion, binocularity, space, and visual illusions.

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Review:

Nicholas Wade takes a daring approach in this collection of documents from the history of optical studies. In it, he compiles a curiously structured anthology of writers, from the 5th-century B.C. Greek philosopher Democritus to the 19th-century English musical instrument maker Charles Wheatstone, including such famous students of light and vision as Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. These thinkers are grouped by theme ("Light and the Eye," for example, or "Space") and by date, but only very loosely by immediate subject, giving the book a hop-around feel. Wade freely admits that the organization of the anthology requires work of the reader; it may indeed call for effort, but his collection is of signal usefulness to students of the history of science and the optical sciences. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Nicholas J. Wade is Professor of Visual Psychology at the University of Dundee, Scotland. He is the author of several books, including Psychologists in Word and Image (MIT Press, 1995).

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Wade, Nicholas J.
Published by The MIT Press (2000)
ISBN 10: 0262731290 ISBN 13: 9780262731294
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Nicholas J. Wade
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