"Retinal Reflections"
Delve into the realm of mammalian vision at our exhibition, which is centered on the pioneering work "Contributions to the Comparative Anatomy of the Mammalian Eye, Chiefly Based on Ophthalmoscopic Examination" by George Lindsay Johnson and Arthur W. Head

Welcome to "Retinal Reflections - Exploring the Diversity of Animal Vision", our in-house exhibition. Discover the early 20th-century concept and collaborative work of the two principal visionaries, whose methodical approach and innovative techniques around 1900 have unveiled the hidden wonders of the mammalian eye.

The Examination Process

Their exploration employed direct ophthalmoscopy, in which an ordinary reflecting ophthalmoscope and a consistent light source revealed the intricate details of the Fundus oculi, meaning the retina and its surroundings. For very small creatures, they utilized a smaller mirror that allowed them to work within an inch’s distance. Through patience and gentleness, they were able to examine even the most spirited animals without the need for physical restraint. Smaller animals comfortably sat on their keeper’s lap, while larger ones, including bears and wolves, were gently restrained. Notably, the intense light of the ophthalmoscope had a mesmerizing effect, lulling some animals, like a large African lion, into sleep during the process.

The Artistic Collaboration

The detailed images presented here are the joint effort of Lindsay Johnson and Arthur W. Head, a skilled draughtsman. Johnson trained Head in the use of the ophthalmoscope, and with his careful oversight, Head created the majority of these precise paintings that accurately depict the Fundus oculi.

Technological Innovation

To faithfully represent the fundus of very small eyes, such as that of the common mole (Talpa europaea), at a magnification of 120 diameters, Lindsay Johnson developed an illuminated micro-ophthalmoscope. This device, merging a mirror with a low-power microscope, introduced a new method that improved our knowledge of these small-scale visual structures. The remainder of the images are shown at magnifications of 16 to 18 diameters, allowing for the observation of details not visible to the naked eye. Their approach highlights the importance of non-invasive techniques in scientific discovery. Only on rare occasions was a general anesthetic employed, underscoring their commitment to the welfare of the subjects.

This exhibition is not just a showcase of scientific observation but also a testament to the collaboration between science and art, resulting in a rich tapestry of mammalian vision that also contributes to our understanding of evolutionary biology and comparative anatomy. We invite you to embark on this visual journey, a blend of artistry and meticulous scientific inquiry, revealing the unseen and bringing to light the diverse world of mammalian vision.

Further Readings

For a deeper understanding of the original research and findings, access the full text of 'Contributions to the Comparative Anatomy of the Mammalian Eye, Chiefly Based on Ophthalmoscopic Examination' by George Lindsay Johnson.