This book aims to be a collection of facts and not of theories, and insofar as it is, I do not fear successful contradiction. When explanations have been offered it has been done with considerable trepidation, because I have never been able to formulate a theory that would withstand the test of the facts either in my possession at the time, or accumulated later. The same is true of the theories of every other man, for a theory is only a guess, and you cannot guess or imagine the truth. No one has ever satisfactorily answered the question, “Why?” as most scientific men are well aware, and I did not feel that I could do better than others who had tried and failed. One cannot even draw conclusions safely from facts, because a conclusion is very much like a theory, and may be disproved or modified by facts accumulated later. In the science of ophthalmology, theories, often stated as facts, have served to obscure the truth and throttle investigation for more than a hundred years. The explanations of the phenomena of sight put forward by Young, von Graefe, Helmholtz and Donders have caused us to ignore or explain away a multitude of facts which otherwise would have led to the discovery of the truth about errors of refraction and the consequent prevention of an incalculable amount of human misery.
In presenting my experimental work to the public, I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mrs. E. C. Lierman, whose co-operation during four years of arduous labor and prolonged failure made it possible to carry the work to a successful issue. I would be glad, further, to acknowledge my debt to others who aided me with suggestions, or more direct assistance, but am unable to do so, as they have requested me not to mention their names in this connection.
As there has been a considerable demand for the book from the laity, an effort has been made to present the subject in such a way as to be intelligible to persons unfamiliar with ophthalmology.