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ART. I.-1. The Sense Denied and Lost. By THOMAS BULL, M.D.
3. Encyclopædia Britannica. Eighth Edition. Article, Blind.
form our actions, must seriously affect our comfort and our influence; but when either sight or hearing is denied or lost, the calamity is great. The eye, which, by the aid of light, mirrors the outer world upon the white curtain of its inner chamber, is a wondrous mechanism, and enables the soul to hold communion with nature and with man. Endowed with exquisite beauty, and throwing a halo around the human countenance, the organ of perception by which external things in all their variety of colour and of form are discerned, the human Eye has been with great propriety styled 'the Queen of the Senses.' But it owes this place, says a late philosopher,* mainly to the fact that its empire is far wider than those ruled over by its sisters. The ear is enabled to hear the music of the spheres, but in reality is limited in space to those sounds which the earth and its atmosphere yield, and in time to the passing moment. The starry abysses for it are silent, and the past and the future equally dumb. The nostril, the tongue, and the hand are similarly bounded, perhaps even more so; but the eye so triumphs over space, that it traverses in a moment the boundless ocean which stretches beyond our atmosphere, and takes home to itself stars which are millions of miles away; and so far is it from being fatigued by its flight, that, as the Wise King said, "it is not satisfied with seeing." Our only physical conception of limitless infinity is derived from the longing of the eye to see farther than the farthest star. And its empire over time is scarcely less bounded. The future it cannot pierce; but our eyes are never lifted to the midnight heavens without being visited by light which left the stars from which it comes untold centuries ago; and suns which had burned out, even before Adam was
The Five Gateways of Knowledge,' by the late Dr. George Wilson, p. 25. Vol. 3.-No. 9.
created, are shown to us as the blazing orbs which they were in those immeasurably distant ages, by beams which have survived their source through all that time.'.
By the eye alone can distance be measured. Sound gives very inadequate ideas of extension; but the eye can trace the space which separates planet from planet, star from sun, and can enable the mind to comprehend the vastness of creation. Irradiated with glory from the rays of light, the diversified face of nature spreads out attractions to the sense of sight, and kindles fine conceptions in the imagination. Naturally quick of discernment, it can also be educated in a very high degree. The sailor on the look-out can see a ship where the landsman sees nothing; the Esquimaux can distinguish a white fox amidst the white snow; the American backwoodsman will fire a rifle-ball so as to strike a nut out of the mouth of a squirrel without hurting it; the Red Indian boys hold their hands up as marks to each other, certain that the unerring arrow will be shot between the spread-out fingers; the astronomer can see a star in the sky, where to others the blue expanse is unbroken; the shepherd can distinguish the face of every sheep in his flock; the mosaic worker can detect distinctions of colour, where others see none; and multitudes of additional examples might be given of what education does for the eye.' *
The blind are, however, deprived of all these advantages of the organ of vision. The visible universe has no charm for them, and it is with difficulty that they can form any idea of space or of distance. They are only conscious of the place they occupy, and to which their extremities can reach. By the ear they can to some extent measure distance; but those vast conceptions which are open to the mind through the view of the boundlessness of nature are quite beyond their ability. The beauty of colours and their diversified arrangements in nature are closed to them. So are also the fine proportions of form which exercise so strong an influence on the taste, and which have received a high development in art as well as in nature.
"The causes of blindness are various,' says Dr. Bull. The born blind, comparatively few in number, may be expected to remain within their present limits. Purulent ophthalmia in infancy, and small-pox in childhood, formerly blinded their thousands; but in later years, with the advance of science and general intelligence, these numbers have greatly diminished. During adolescence, disease and accident bring about the same result, but in a limited degree. From this epoch, through adult life to old age, the causes
The Five Gateways of Knowledge,' by the late Dr. George Wilson, p. 23. + 'I have been told,' said a blind man to us not long since, that the ocean is like an immense green field; but of what use is that? How do I know what a field is, or what green is?'-Edinburgh Review, January 1854.
The Born Blind.
are more numerous and more prolific. Besides disease, accidents in mines and manufactories, trades directly injurious to the sight -above them all, the intense ardour with which business is conducted in these days, and the consequent wear and tear of the constitution, particularly the nervous system, are the most prominent sources of this calamity. It is thus evident, that while juvenile blindness is yearly diminishing, adult blindness is on the increase. The statistics of the blind are very imperfect. In Europe, blindness is found to decrease in advancing from the equator to the poles; it being computed in Egypt at the rate of one to three hundred-blindness throughout the East being a far commoner calamity than with us. For this there are many causes. The dust and flying sand, pulverized and reduced to minute particles, enter the eyes, causing inflammation, which being neglected, frequently ends in total loss of sight; while sleeping in the open air, on the roofs of houses, and the consequent exposure of the eyes to the noxious nightly, dews, is another source of this malady. A western traveller calculates that there are four thousand blind in Cairo alone. In Great Britain and Ireland there is rather more than one in about one thousand two hundred, which gives an aggregate in this country of nearly thirty thousand. Of these, less than one-fifth are under twenty years of age, the majority of the remaining four-fifths having become blind after this period for it is a popular mistake to suppose that the adult have once been the adolescent blind; by far the greater majority have never been so.'*
It is remarkable how few are born blind in this country compared with the actual number of adults who are deprived of the sense of sight. Dr. Bull states that although he was for nearly twenty-five years physician to the London Lying-in Institution, where there were a thousand births annually, he had not a single case under his observation, and his medical friends informed him that they had never seen one. In the population of this empire there are not more than two thousand five hundred who may be ranked under the list of 'born blind.' Many of these cases arise. from infant diseases immediately after birth. Purulent ophthalmia attacks a child sometimes within a week after nativity; and unless this be promptly attended to and controlled, which can be done, sight is rapidly affected and destroyed. Small-pox in this early stage of life has been often followed with the same fatal results to the eye; but this cause, though once more destructive than any other, is seldom seen now. The vast majority of those who suffer from the loss of sight have experienced this sad calamity by accident.
* Bull, p. 4. The Edinburgh Review' (January 1854) makes the average in Egypt one in every hundred, in Norway one in a thousand, and in Japan, according to Golownin, no fewer than 36,000 are in the city of Jeddo!
Nature and art have done much to alleviate the affliction of the blind. Other senses have been intensified so as in a great measure to become substitutes for the lost one. These being also highly cultivated reach a perfection not attained by the same faculties in those who see. Some have been remarkable for their quickness of hearing. This organ is more easily educated than any other, and naturally inclines to music. The Red Indian can detect the sounds that echo through the forests, and tell if a beast of prey or of the chase is near. The blind being accustomed to this means of acquiring knowledge and discernment in infancy, have their hearing generally very highly developed. The sounds of voices become the means of knowing friends, and of pronouncing upon the changes which had affected the health or the age of well-known acquaintances. Dr. Bull records a very curious illustration of this in his practice of medicine, even after blindness had set in. A few days since,' he says, a lady swallowed a small piece of chicken bone, which, sticking in the gullet, caused much pain and some alarm. A portion of bread was masticated, swallowed, and carried with it the foreign body, as was strikingly evidenced to me by the altered tones of the voice. Shortly the sufferer, from a return of pain and uneasiness, feared the bone was still there. My convictions remained unaltered, accounting for the latter fact on the well-known principle, that in all such cases the painful sensation continues long after the foreign body has been dislodged. Time proved the correctness of this opinion.' He also mentions that by the change in the voice of a friend whom he had not met for three or four years, he remarked, Has he not become very thin?' which was actually the case. Of course his was a physician's ear attuned to the nicest distinctions in sounds by a long practice; but the blind generally found upon the tones of the voice their impressions of change in their friends, no less than in the recognition of them. By watching the different voices in any company, Dr. Moyes knew the dimensions of the apartment, and how to address himself to those present. By this faculty, we doubt not, the blind have so greatly excelled as musicians.
Touch is the sense by which the blind ascertain the form, size, and density of bodies, and it has been cultivated for the purpose of teaching them to read, and to labour for their bread. By this the mechanical art of composing for the press, and performing all the necessary work in printing, has been acquired by them, and carried out with an accuracy equal to that of those who had sight. Weaving, spinning, sewing, and even embroidering, have also been acquired. Into some institutions the art of turning has been introduced with success, and watchmaking in others. William Huntley, of Barnstaple, was the son of a watchmaker, and was blind from his birth. His father, observing his aptness for me