Set of fifty artificial eyes, Liverpool, England, 1900-1940

Made:
1900-1940 in Liverpool
maker:
E Müller

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Buy this image as a print 

License this image for commercial use at Science and Society Picture Library

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Set of 50 artificial glass eyes, all shapes and sizes, by E. Muller, 26 St. James Road, Liverpool, England, 1900-1940

Have you read Roald Dahl’s The Twits? If so, you’ll know Mrs Twit, a very memorable glass eye wearer. Except she was not always wearing it – like the time she put it in Mr Twit’s beer glass to frighten him. But what was it really like to choose and wear an artificial eye?

In the early 1900s your eye surgeon would send you to an optician, or an ocularist – someone who specialized in making and fitting prosthetic eyes. You’d have to pay for the eye, so what would be the most important factor in your choice? You’d probably go for a combination of comfort, natural appearance, and match to your skin tone and other eye.

Why were they laid out in a box like this? Ocularists had to compete for customers, and wanted to impress both the buyer and the surgeons who sent them there. Demonstrating their wide range of stock – or craftsmanship for custom-made eyes – was essential for making a sale. Ocularists also made home visits so that you could try them on in private.

Artificial eyes are now free on the UK’s National Health Service. The shops and mail order services have closed. Today technicians and eye fitters work together to produce a perfectly matched prosthetic eye made from a special hardwearing plastic. The boxes of glass eyes are now museum objects, but imagine the fun Mrs Twit could have had with them.

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Details

Category:
Ophthalmology
Materials:
glass, leatherette, velvet, wood
Identifier:
A660037
type:
artificial eyes, ophthalmology (general) artificial eyes, ophthalmology (general)
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment
  • prosthesis
  • surgical implant
status:
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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