Catalogue Number: 3171
Test types for the determining the acuteness of vision
Sub-Category: Reading card, tests of near vision
Designer/inventor: George Cowell FRCS
Year Of Publication/Manufacture: 1890
Time Period: 19th C
Place Of Publication/Manufacture: London
Publisher/Manufacturer: Harrison and Sons
Description Of Item: Maroon card covers, 203 x 280 mm, on the inside of which are pasted two pages of test types of various sizes. The sizes of the type are designated in meters and feet representing the distances at which a person with normal vision is able to read the print. The sizes range from 0.3 m to 12 m. The first page is headed 'Test types for the determining the acuteness of vision' underneath which is a statement that the test was 'drawn up by GEORGE COWELL FRCS'. An introductory note below this states that the letters are designed in accordance with the principles of Dr H Snellen in that the limb width is one-fifth of the height of the letters. The words were chosen to be single syllable to assist those who cannot read well.
Historical Significance: This near vision chart was contained in a trial set owned by the donor's grandfather, Peter, and great uncle, Fred, Robertson who practised optometry on the south east corner of the intersection of Little Collins and Elizabeth streets from about 1900 to 1939. See Cat No. 2317 for the trial set. They had trained as watchmakers in Bendigo. The trial lens set and this card were also used by the donor for his work travelling with the Flying Doctor Service from 1969 to 1979.The designer of the near vision chart, George Cowell (1836-1927), was a consultant general surgeon and ophthalmologist at Westminster Hospital and Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital. He retired 1897. He earned an obituary in Br Med J 1927;2:1009 and a biography in Plarr's Lives of the Royal College of Surgeons Fellows (MRCS July 9th 1858; FRCS Dec 12th 1867) His career was not especially remarkable although he did publish some articles including 'Lectures on Cataract: Its Causes, Varieties, and Treatment' 1883. Digital copies of this test can be found at https://openlibrary.org/books/OL25659052M/Test_types_for_determining_ the_acuteness_of_vision where it is stated that the test was printed and sold by Harrison and Sons in London in 1890.
How Acquired: Donated by Dr Ian Robertson, Melbourne ophthalmologist
Condition: Fair. Card cover part faded. Test charts are soiled, faded and yellowed
Location: Archive room. West wall. Unit 2 Drawer 2