A brief history of macular grids: from Thomas Reid to Edvard Munch and Marc Amsler

Surv Ophthalmol. 2000 Jan-Feb;44(4):343-53. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6257(99)00113-7.


Metamorphopsia is a symptom of retinal distortion from intrinsic retinal disease. It has undoubtedly been experienced for millennia, but its clinical significance has been appreciated only in modern times. The Norwegian painter Edvard Munch recognized scotomas and metamorphopsia after suffering an intraocular hemorrhage in his 60th year. Drawings made during this illness show his changing perceptions, and also his attempts to document them with a grid of lines. The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid may have been the first to write about metamorphopsia. He described distortion of his vision in 1764, after an episode of sungazing, and recognized that the problem was probably of retinal origin. Lines or grids to document metamorphopsia have appeared in ophthalmology textbooks for more than 100 years, but testing for macular degeneration did not become routine until the dissemination of Amsler's grids in the middle of the 20th century. This is in large measure a result of developments in ophthalmology that made therapy for macular disease possible.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Medicine in the Arts*
  • Norway
  • Paintings / history
  • Retinal Diseases / history*
  • Scotland
  • Switzerland
  • Vision Disorders / history*
  • Vision Tests / history*
  • Visual Fields*

Personal name as subject

  • T Reid
  • E Munch
  • M Amsler