The Dead Hand of German Science 213
"There is now living in New York State," he says, "an old gentleman who, perceiving his sight to fail, immedi ately took to exercising it on the finest print, and in this way fairly bullied Nature out of her foolish habit of tak ing liberties at five-and-forty, or thereabout. And now this old gentleman performs the most extraordinary feats with his pen, showing that his eyes must be a pair of microscopes. I should be afraid to say how much he writes in the compass of a half-dime-whether the Psalms or the Gospels, or the Psalms and the Gospels, I won't be positive."1
There are also people who regain their near vision after having lost it for ten, fifteen, or more years; and there are people who, while presbyopic for some objects, have perfect sight for others. Many dressmakers, for instance, can thread a needle with the naked eye, and with the retinoscope it can be demonstrated that they accurately focus their eyes upon such objects; and yet they cannot read or write without glasses.
So far as I am aware no one but myself has ever ob served the last mentioned class of cases, but the others are known to every opththalmologist of any experience. One hears of them at the meetings of ophthalmological societies; they are even reported in the medical journals; but such is the force of authority that when it comes to writing books they are either ignored or explained away, and every new treatise that comes from the press repeats the old superstition that presbyopia is "a normal result of growing old." We have beaten Germany; but the dead hand of German science still oppresses our intellects and prevents us from crediting the plainest evidence of our senses. Some of us are so filled with repugnance for
i Everyman's Library, 1908, pp. 166-167.