(Investigator 22, 1992 January)

If you stare at the sun you risk damage to your retina.

This is why a reader of Investigator prepared a Press Release after encountering advertising material which offered improved eyesight via Bates eye exercises.

A book by H M Peppard (1940), based on Bates' method advocates facing the sun, eyes closed, flashing them open without directly looking at the sun but directing the glance "closer and closer to the sun" as the exercise proceeds. (pp 52-53)

The early medical career of Dr William Horatio Bates (1860-1931) was impressive and included lecturing in ophthalmology at the New York Postgraduate Medical School (1886-1891).

Then in 1920 he wrote CURE OF IMPERFECT EYESIGHT BY TREATMENT WITHOUT GLASSES. Bates claimed that nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are due to an "abnormal condition of the mind". He advocated various exercises:

Other exercises entailed reading in a very dim light or in very bright light. The most risky exercise attempted to strengthen eyesight by repeated brief glances at the sun!

Dozens of writers accepted, added to, and disseminated Bates' theory of whom Peppard was one. In England Cecil S Price wrote THE IMPROVEMENT OF SIGHT (1934). R J MacFayden wrote SEE WITHOUT GLASSES. The main advocate of Bates, however, was Aldous Huxley who wrote THE ART OF SEEING (1942). Numerous schools in America, Britain and Germany taught Bates eye exercises.

Many clients did report improved sight. Critics attributed this to:

    1. Optometrists often sold glasses to people who didn’t need them;
    2. Some eye defects improve spontaneously;
    3. Psychosomatic factors.

The book THE TRUTH ABOUT EYE EXERCISES (1956) by New York optometrist Philip Pollock demolishes Bates' pseudoscience.