For many centuries nothing at all was known about the back of the living eye. Because the structure and function of the eye remained a mystery, the eye attracted attention of artists and mystics rather than scientists.
By the 17th Century scientists were beginning to make progress in the scientific evaluations of the eye. Sir Isaac Newton studied optics, focusing on how light moves in and out of the eye.
During the 1740s a Frenchman, Jacques Daviel, marginally improved matters by surgically removing the natural lens. But the problem of focusing remained, and was only solved by the unsatisfactory use of heavy and ungainly spectacles. It is also known that attempts were made at this time to replace the extracted natural lens with a glass lens, but this was found to cause very severe complications and thus the practice ceased.
In 1851 Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physicist, and Charles Babbage, an Englishman, invented the ophthalmoscope which, for the first time, allowed the examiner to see behind the living pupil.
Attempts made in the 19th century to replace the lens with an artificial one failed disastrously. Thereafter it was deemed that such an operation was impossible, and that the lens would be rejected by the body's immune system.
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