By George Gabriel Stokes
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2009
Online Publication Date:September 2010
Original Publication Year:1883
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511702259.011
Subjects: History of mathematical texts
Besides the common defects of long sight and short sight, there exists a defect, not very uncommon, which consists in the eye's refracting the rays of light with different power in different planes, so that the eye, regarded as an optical instrument, is not symmetrical about its axis. This defect was first noticed by the present Astronomer Royal in a paper published about 20 years ago in the Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. It may be detected by making a small pin-hole in a card, which is to be moved from close to the eye to arm's length, the eye meanwhile being directed to the sky, or any bright object of sufficient size. With ordinary eyes the indistinct image of the hole remains circular at all distances; but to an eye having this peculiar defect it becomes elongated, and, when the card is at a certain distance, passes into a straight line. On further removing the card, the image becomes elongated in a perpendicular direction, and finally, if the eye be not too long-sighted, passes into a straight line perpendicular to the former. Mr Airy has corrected the defect in his own case by means of a spherico-cylindrical lens, in which the required curvature of the cylindrical surface was calculated by means of the distances of the card from the eye when the two focal lines were formed.