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HISTORY

OF

JAMES MITCHELL,

A

BOY BORN BLIND AND DEAF,

WITH AN

ACCOUNT OF THE OPERATION

PERFORMED FOR THE RECOVERY OF HIS SIGHT.

BY JAMES WARDROP, F.R.S. EDIN.

LONDON:

1813.

TO

DUGALD STEWART, ESQ.

&c. &c. &c.

Dear Sir,

The great interest you have taken, and the exertions you continue to make for the welfare of the unfortunate Youth whose History is now presented to the Public, will, I crust, be deemed a sufficient apology for the liberty I take in thus prefixing your Name.

The Memoir, when presented to you in manuscript having met with your approbation, I am induced to publish it in its original form. As your valuable Account of the Boy has been circulated only among your friends; and as there are some facts connected with the Operation, and its immediate effects, which you have purposely omitted, I hope this Publication will not be deemed superfluous, and that it may, in some degree, promote the objects of your

benevolent exertions.

With every sentiment of

sentiment of respect,
I remain, Dear Sir,
Your much obliged and obedient servant,

JAMES WARDROP.

Charles Street, St. James's Square,

December, 1812.

THE HISTORY, &c. .

The following History of a Boy born Blind and Deaf affords a most interesting, though lamentable, example of a defect in the organization of the human frame, which, as far as I know, has not yet been described ; and lays open à field of curious and valuable philosophical investigation, which has not hitherto been much explored. The boy, when brought to London, and put

under

my care, had passed the fourteenth year of his age. He was accompanied by his father, a respectable clergyman in the North of Scotland, and by his sister; from whom, and from the observations I was enabled to make, the subsequent history has been collected.

He had the usual appearances of strength and good health, and his countenance was extremely pleasing, and indicated a considerable deal of intelligence.

On examining the state of his eyes, the pupil of each was observed to be obscured by a Cataract.

In the right eye the cataract was of a white color and pearly lustre, and appeared to pervade the whole of the crystalline lens. The pupil, however, readily dilated or contracted, according to the different degrees of light to which it was exposed. The cataract in the left eye was not equally opake; about one-third of it being dim and clouded, arising, as it appeared, from very thin dusky webs crossing it in various directions, the rest being of an opake white color. The pupil of this eye did not, however, seem so susceptible of impressions from varieties in the intensity of light, as that of the other eye, nor did he employ this eye, so often as the other, to gratify his fondness for light.

I could discover no defect in the organization of his

ears.

Soon after his birth, his parents observed the cataracts in both eyes, and they also discovered, at a very early age) that he was deaf, as no sounds appeared to excite his attention, and no noise seemed to awake him during sleep.

About the time of life when he was attempting to walk, he began to be attracted by bright and dazzling colors, and to derive pleasure from striking his teeth with sonorous bodies. He also appeared anxious to smell and feel those substances which had become known to him through the medium of his other senses.

As he advanced in years, various circumstances concurred to prove, that neither the retina nor the auditory nerve were entirely insensible to the impressions of light and sound; and that, though he derived little information from these organs, he received from them a considerable degree of gratification.

He used to hold between his eye and luminous objects, such bodies as he had found to increase the quantity of light; and it was one of his chief amusements to concentrate the sun's rays, by means of pieces of glass, transparent pebbles, or similar substances which he held between his eye and the light, and turned about in various directions. There were other modes by which he was often in the habit of gratifying his desire of light. He would go to any out-house or room within his reach, shut the windows and doors, and remain there for a considerable time, with his eyes

fixed on some small hole or chink which admitted the sun's rays, eagerly catching them. He would also, during the winter nights, frequently retire to a corner of a dark room, and kindle a light for his amusement. Such, indeed, seemed to be the degree of pleasure, which he received from feasting his eyes with light, that he would often occupy himself, in this manner, for several hours, without interruption. In this, as well as in the gratification of the other senses, his countenance and gestures displayed a most interesting avidity and curiosity.

It was difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain with precision, the degree of sight which he enjoyed; but from the preternatural acuteness which his senses of touch and smell had acquired, in consequence of having been habitually employed to collect that information for which the sight is peculiarly adapted ; it may be with confidence presumed, that he derived little, if any, assistance from his eyes, as organs of vision. Besides, the appearances of the disease in the eyes were such, as to render it extremely probable, that they enabled him merely to distinguish some colors and differences in the intensity of light.

The organs of hearing seemed equally unfit for receiving the impressions of ordinary sounds, as his eyes were those of objects of sight.

Many circumstances, at the same time, seemed to prove, that he was not altogether insensible to sound. It has been already observed, that he often amused himself by striking hard substances against his teeth, from which he appeared to derive as much gratification, as he did from receiving the impression of light on his eyes. In his childhood, one

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