A Natural History of Vision

A Natural History of Vision

By Nicholas Wade

A Bradford Book





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 at the end of the 1830s (after which vision became an experimental science). Although there are other histories of vision, this is the first 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 over 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, along with the dates of birth and death, 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.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262231947 484 pp. | 7.9 in x 9.9 in


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262731294 484 pp. | 7.9 in x 9.9 in


  • A Natural History of Vision is an invaluable collection representing the principal thinkers on the subject, from antiquity to the dawn of the present, illustrated with portraits of the writers.... it is delightful to have all these ideas in one book.

    Richard Gregory

    Times Literary Supplement

  • [A] sober, scholarly, handsome and rewarding book.

    Scientific American

  • An absolutely marvelous and unique history of the psychology, physiology, anatomy, and physics of vision from the earliest times, presented almost entirely in the words and illustrations of the original thinkers.

    Charles G. Gross

    Department of Psychology, Princeton University