Introduction to the Optics of the Eye David A. Goss, Roger W. West Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. Pages: 264. Price: $52.50. ISBN 0-7506-7346-X.
Introduction to the Optics of the Eye by Goss and West should be a welcome reference book to answer the practicing clinician’s questions about optics or to explain something new and unfamiliar that might have come up at a recent meeting, such as partial coherence interferometry. Graduate students in Vision Science might begin here before proceeding on to something more mathematically oriented like Atchison and Smith’s Optics of the Human Eye. Optometry students will probably be assigned more extensive texts (the book is not meant to be a substitute for Bennett and Rabbetts for example). This book would also be very useful to ophthalmology residents trying to brush up on the basics of visual optics. Worked examples can be found throughout the more quantitative chapters.
The book moves through the basics of geometric and physical optics, then the optics of the eye, primarily the dioptrics of schematic eyes. Key concepts such as retinal image formation, quality, and depth of field are covered. Refractive error makes up a large portion of material covered. In this area, the authors cover the optics of measurement of the ocular components that make up refractive error, optics related to spectacle correction, clinical techniques for the measurement of refractive error, and some epidemiology of refractive error, including recent animal experimentation. The book includes a chapter on accommodation and presbyopia plus a discussion of experimental procedures for correcting presbyopia. The final chapter presents some interesting biographical material on important historical figures in vision science. While this chapter might seem unrelated to the more quantitative and conceptual earlier chapters, it contains some really interesting bits of information about some very familiar names. For example, I was unaware that Kepler was a devout and religious man, nor that he successfully defended his mother against charges of witchcraft. Thomas Young apparently was quite a linguist, worked on the Rosetta Stone, and provided the first translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Helmholtz’s mother was a descendent of William Penn. This sort of attention to detail pervades the book. The description of characteristics of autorefractors, for example, was presented in a very complete and informative list.
The book receives equally high marks for being current as for its historical completeness. Items included are modern terminology for description of aberrations, recently introduced biometry methods such as PCI (one of the best basic explanations of the technique I have read), current Thibos-style notation for refractive error, animal models for refractive error, and alternate theories and treatments for presbyopia. There are also some novel approaches to teaching classic concepts. The approach to shape and power factors using principles of telescope optics was a clever, novel (to me, anyway) way to unify these two ideas.
There are some inevitable criticisms on figures in such a book. The decision on whether to use color is one every author of an optics book must go through. It does seem difficult to explain chromatic effects without using color. Inclusion of a classic Fillmore Auditorium concert poster might have entertained some of the younger readers who may not be able to picture op-art from their own youth. Topographic maps would probably mean more in color. Greater three-dimensionality might add to some of the aberration and astigmatism diagrams. I have some pet issues with the explanation of retinoscopy and knife edge principle because I prefer an explanation based on chief rays rather than one that implies the edge of the reflex is caused by blocking by the retinoscope aperture or knife edge. These minor points aside, readers will find clear, concise, and understandable answers to their optics-related questions in Introduction to the Optics of the Eye.