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Title: Enhancing vision in nineteenth-century Britain
Author: Almond, Gemma
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 4541
Awarding Body: Swansea University
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2019
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The measurement of vision and the use of vision aids changed dramatically across the nineteenth century. This thesis explores the retail, manufacture, design, and use of vision aids in this context. The overall argument is threefold. Firstly, that the advancement and professionalisation of medical knowledge of the eye led to the reconceptualization of how vision aids were used, tested and sold. Secondly, that changes in the manufacture and sale of vision aids led to greater numbers being produced, and these were better suited for more long-term wear. Thirdly, it argues that these two changes affected users of vision aids by improving their utility, as well as their accessibility. This is the first major study of nineteenth-century vision aids and how they were used, dispensed and sold. However, it also contributes to our understanding of the Victorian period. New demands were placed on vision and vision aids intersect a range of important areas of Victorian history, including urbanisation, industrialisation, rise of print and education. Additionally, it highlights how an assistive technology can be used to challenge conventional thinking about medicalisation, medical definitions, medical authority and measurement in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, because vision aids could be both fashionable and stigmatised, it provides new perspectives on the process of normalisation and our understanding of impairment in relation to commonality. It highlights scope for the study of minor impairments by showing how the experience of blindness, partial sight, and disability as a whole, cannot be seen as transhistorical. The Science Museum's Ophthalmology and Dunscombe collections have shaped this research. It reveals how objects can be used effectively alongside textual and visual evidence for the history of vision aids, as well as the history of medicine, retail, design, disability history, and the cultural perceptions that surround vision and its impairment.
Supervisor: Turner, David ; Miskell, Louise ; Boon, Tim ; Emmens, Stewart Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral