The Early History of the Study of Human Visual Perception (300
BC - 1700s)
Human visual perception has been the subject of speculation and study
The scholar Euclid (in his text "Optics"
of about 300 BC) was presented the eye as
a geometrical point
that shooting rays of light outwards towards objects. Centuries later, the
Arab scholar Alhazen (c.965-1038) disagreed with Euclid's
theory of the eye / visual perception, extended understanding of
optics and made a detailed description of the human eye.
Little, if any, scientific progress was made in Europe throughout the
Dark Ages (c.500-1200). Alhazen’s work was translated into Latin
during the thirteenth century and was influential in early European studies.
Roger Bacon (1215-1294) is credited with the idea
of using lenses for correcting vision, and by the middle of the fourteenth
century paintings included monks wearing spectacles.
The astronomer Kepler (1571-1630) studied the human eye,
and in 1604 suggested that the retina is the screen on which an image
is formed by the lens. This was tested experimentally by Scheiner,
when in 1625 he observed an upside-down image on the retina of an ox’s
Descartes (1596-1650) described the ideas of both size
constancy and shape constancy in his Dioptrics, which first appeared in
1637. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) paved the way for
the development of an understanding of colour vision by his studies of
the characteristics of light.
In 1751 Robert Watt showed that the contraction of the
pupil in response to bright light is a reflex, or involuntary, action.