Myopia in the sign of the time

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1*Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, Eye- and Vision Center Optometrie Cagnolati GmbH

Myopia is one of the most pressing issues in the eye care community. The September issue of Optometry and Contact Lenses (OCL) also devotes three articles to this topic, which has occupied scientists and clinicians for centuries. In this context, the 1933 publication by the Berlin ophthalmologist Greef1 and the 2018 work by the Dutch ophthalmologist de Jong2 provide an excellent overview of the complex of myopia in the context of time. For example, the reader learns that the Greek philosopher Aristotle first used the term myopia in the 4th century BC. The reader also learns that the Breslau ophthalmologist Hermann Cohn (1838 - 1906) was the first to conduct statistical studies on the development of myopia in children. Greef also describes in detail the early theories regarding the causes of myopia. These included among others

  • the theory of heredity,
  • the theory of accommodation,
  • the theory of convergence,
  • the Hasner-Weiß optic nerve strain theory,
  • the Stillings' orbit construction or rolling muscle theory,
  • the Lewinsohn theory.

The ophthalmologist de Jong writes in his aforementioned publication about the Benedictine monk Maurolycus. In 1554, Maurolycus was the first to divide the refraction of the eye into "short vision" (myopia), which should be corrected by concave lenses, and "long vision" (hyperopia), which should be corrected by convex lenses. De Jong listed the interesting considerations of Hermann Boerhave in his 1751 publication "Treatise on eye diseases and the same cure", in which he named a "pronounced eye length" as the cause of myopia, as well as the considerations of the Swiss ophthalmologist Sidler-Huguenin, published by Greef, who, in addition to considerations regarding the causes of myopia, also addressed the question "Can short-sightedness be brought to a standstill with suitable means" as early as the beginning of the 20th century.

Starting in the 19th century, until the middle of the 20th century, European ophthalmologists, and especially German-speaking ophthalmologists, were primarily concerned with myopia and its genesis. In the past, research into the causes and prevention of myopia was primarily the domain of ophthalmology, but for some time now, clinicians and scientists from the field of optometry have also been active in this area worldwide.

OCL is aimed at members of the interrelated professions of optometry and ophthalmology. The topic of myopia in this OCL issue should be of equal interest to members of both professions.


Wolfgang Cagnolati


1 Greef, R. (1933). Das rechtsichtige und fehlsichtige Auge. In: Der Augenoptiker, II. Band: Das menschliche Auge (eds. H. Pistor und R. Greef), Panses Verlag, Weimar, pp. 156-220.

2 de Jong, P. T. V. M. (2018). Myopia: its historical contexts. Br. J. Ophthalmol., 102, 1021-1027.