The Vision of William Porterfield

  • Nicholas J. Wade

In eighteenth-century Britain, research on vision was conducted in the context of either optics or medicine, and both were influenced by philosophy. These threads were woven together by William Porterfield (ca. 1696–1771) in his essays on eye movements and in his treatise on the eye and vision. The scene for investigating vision was set by Isaac Newton (1642–1727) in the first decade of the century with his Opticks (Newton, 1704). The Newtonian mould was loosened by Thomas Young (1773–1829) in the last decade with his initial observations on vision (Young, 1793). Newton and Young adopted contrasting theories of light; Newton’s (1704) theory was based on its corpuscular properties whereas Young (1800, 1802) provided further evidence (mainly from studies of interference) for its action as a wave. Despite the controversies in physical optics, their studies of visual optics had much in common (Wade, 1998). They examined the image forming properties of the eye similarly and their analyses of errors of refraction were in accord.


Visual Motion Motion Perception Binocular Vision Philosophical Transaction Phantom Limb 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas J. Wade
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DundeeScotland

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