Dr. Bates was an orthodox ophthalmologist in New York City, and considered an authority by members of his profession. In 1886 he introduced a new operation for relief of persistent deafness consisting of incising the eardrum membrane, an operation still in use today. In 1894, as a research physician, he discovered the astringent and hemostatic properties of the aqueous extract of the suprarenal capsule, later commercialized as adrenaline.
Dr. Bates was not satisfied with the prevailing theory of accommodation (how the eye focuses). The prevailing theory of accommodation was, and still is, that the curvature of the lens of the eye is the only part responsible for accommodation and that it is it's inflexibility that causes failing sight. This happens to a large number of the population around the age of 40 and is commonly called "old age sight," presbyopia, or farsightedness. But this term doesn't apply to younger children who certainly cannot fall into this category, nor anyone who has not reached age 40. For the opposite problem we are told that the eyes are abnormally long or, in other words, it is a structural problem of the eyeball. This is commonly called myopia or nearsightedness. This still does not account for the fact that before the person had eye problems there was no structural problem.
For years Dr. Bates felt there was something wrong about the procedure of prescribing glasses to patients who came to him about their eyes. "Why," he asked, "if glasses are correct, must they continually be strengthened because the eyes, under their influence, have weakened? Logically, if a medicine is good, the dose should be weakened as the patient grows stronger." Dr. Bates gave up his lucrative practice and went into the laboratory at Columbia University to study eyes as they had never been studied before. Disregarding all he had learned in textbooks, he experimented on eyes with an open mind. He ran experiments on animals and examined thousands of pairs of eyes. He never restricted himself to the usual eye examination room, but carried his retinoscope with him, inspecting the refractive state of eyes of both people and animals in many different situations. He refracted eyes of people when they were happy and sad, angry and afraid. Much of this time was spent with children attempting to discover the cause of eye disorders. His retinoscopic findings indicated that the refractive state of the eye was not the static condition textbooks reported, but varied tremendously with the emotional state.
He published an account of a little girl who developed temporary myopia when she lied to him. This fact seemed very significant to him as it was consistent with other findings of myopia that people tend to become myopic when apprehensive. Dr. Bates found that the eye is never constantly the same, that refractive error changed momentarily, that mental strain and tension increased it and relaxation decreased it. His conclusions were that imperfect sight was not possible without first a mental strain, that eyes are tough to what happens from the exterior, that they could mend rapidly from scratches, bumps, and even burns, but could be blinded by mental strain.
In July 1978, a two year study was completed at the Vision Training Institute. The dissertation was written by M.H. McClay as partial fulfillment for his Ph.D. in Psychology from United States International University San Diego. Dr. P.B. Smith was the testing optometrist and Dr. Jerriann J. Taber of Vision Training Institute did all the vision training. Following is an interpretation by A.F. McKinley, lecturer in Physics at San Diego University, of M.H. McClay's dissertation. Most people do not have a background in research and statistical terms. Mr. McKinley was so kind to interpret this study and put it into layman's language. For those with a research background, the following is presented.
A standard optometry evaluation was part of the study, all subjects were seen before and after receiving the Bates Method. Comparisons were made between pretest and post test scores on five measures, visual acuity, lens flexibility, corneal curvature, corrective lens prescription and extra ocular muscle flexibility. In both the nearsighted and farsighted subjects, vision improved for the group as a whole at a highly significant level, measured statistically at .01, meaning that the probability of this result occurring by chance was less than 1 in 100. This study is also significant in that it is the first to show that presbyopia is not caused by "old age" and hardening of the lens. This has been believed by ophthalmology and optometry for over 100 years. There were three people in the study, ages 51, 57, and 66, who achieved normal vision during the study. According to orthodox belief, this is supposed to be impossible. Our study proved this scientifically not to be true, just as Dr. Bates has stated, "Presbyopia is not caused by old age, but by tension." Up until this study, there has never been any research to prove this fact, except Dr. Bates original work, which has been ignored for 80 years.
Thirty three subjects under training in the Bates method were studied during a 20 month period. Although some of the thirty three maintained training throughout the study period, some did not, for various personal and financial reasons. Nevertheless, all of the students improved in their vision "acuity," that is in their sharpness of vision.
Before training, the acuity in both eyes (binocular vision) for distance sight measured 20/130 on the average among the 33 subjects. After training, acuity reached 20/60 on the average; 14 of 33 subjects attained normal vision, 20/20. The statistical test which was applied to this data indicated that the cause for such correction could be credited to the Bates training with very high certainty. The study showed that vision improvement occurred consistently among the 33 subjects and that future participants in the Bates training could expect to benefit to the same degree.
As the majority of optometrists and ophthalmologists today regard Bate's notions as wrong, you should be careful about spending money with any group offering various forms of this therapy. However, further research about it may convince you that this is an approach you would like to try. Be prepared to do daily eye exercises for a very long time.