Wells and the Origins of Vestibular Research

  • Nicholas J. Wade
Part of the History and Philosophy of Psychology book series (HPPS)


Vision was the principal concern of Wells in his early publications, particularly vision with two eyes, but he did not restrict his enquiries to binocular vision. One of the ‘other subjects’ he experimented upon was visible position, and variations in it produced by body tilt and body rotation. The latter produces visual vertigo following rotation. By investigating visual vertigo Wells was opening up a new sense for scientific scrutiny. Aristotle’s five senses had guided the study of perception for two thousand years, and there was little to suggest that his scheme required modification. More specifically, most observations based upon the senses could be interpreted in terms of the five senses. Wells was to show that there were phenomena that could not be accommodated within Aristotle’s scheme, although he was unable to determine what the novel sense was. It is now recognised as the vestibular system, but its function was unknown when Wells carried out his observations and experiments on vertigo.


Apparent Motion Semicircular Canal Visual Motion Body Rotation Animal Spirit 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas J. Wade
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DundeeDundeeScotland

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