Museum of Vision

Dedicated to preserving ophthalmic history

Skip to Central Page Content

Skip to the Sectional Navigation

Skip to the Site Navigation

Site Viewing Options (CSS support required)

Type Size:

  1. Small
  2. Medium
  3. Large

Color Scheme:

  1. Light-on-Dark
  2. Dark-on-Light


  1. Multi-Column
  2. Single-Column

Quick Links

  1. Calendar
  2. Contact
  3. Donate
  4. FAQ

Site Navigation

You are here:

Sectional Navigation

  1. Selections from the Sherman Collection
  2. History of Ophthalmology in the Asia Pacific
  3. Their Eyes to the Sky
  4. Great Insights and Great Thinkers in Ophthalmology
  5. Beyond Ophthalmology, Beyond the Clinic
  6. Extreme Vision: Science Fiction or Truth
  7. Contagion! Epidemics in Ophthalmic History
  8. The Eyes of War
  9. Spectacular Spectacles
  10. To Fool the Eye
  11. Windows to the Soul
  12. Picturing The Eye: Ophthalmic Film and Photography
  13. Collecting Ophthalmology: 30 Years at the Museum

To Strengthen the Eyes

Eye Massager
Eye massager, 1890

A popular claim for quack devices was that they could strengthen the eyes.  One common method was to use suction.  It was understood at the time that the misshapen cornea could effect eyesight and so several devices were created that would produce a gentle suction on the closed eye.  Suction was said to increase a patient's blood flow and eventually reshape the cornea, allowing the patient to throw away their glasses.

Another method to strengthen the eyes was to perform eye exercises.  It was said that President John Quincy Adams enjoyed perfect vision throughout his entire 81 years by "rubbing his eyes from the apex of the cornea to the bridge of his nose."  Therefore, quacks advertised devices that incorporated rubbing or massage that could exercise the eye muscles in order to improve vision.

In 1920 William H. Bates (1860-1931) took the notion of strengthening the eyes in an extreme direction.  In his book, "The Cure of Imperfect Sight without Glasses," he attempted to prove that the extraocular muscles determined the refractive state of the eyes.  In his theory, one simply needed to perform exercises in order to relax the eyes and mind so that the eyes could passively accommodate properly.  Today, one can still find his theories being advocated in books and on the Internet.

More quack devices in our collection

  1. Nostrums and Patent Medicines
  2. Patent Medicine and the American Civil War
  3. To Strengthen the Eyes
  4. Sight Restorers
  5. Electrotherapy
  6. Violet Ray Machines
  7. Color Therapy
  8. Quackery's Demise

User Submitted Comments

Submit Comment

American Academy of Ophthalmology