An ancient eye test--using the stars

Surv Ophthalmol. 2008 Sep-Oct;53(5):536-9. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2008.06.009.


Vision testing in ancient times was as important as it is today. The predominant vision testing in some cultures was the recognition and identification of constellations and celestial bodies of the night sky. A common ancient naked eye test used the double star of the Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major or the Big Bear. The second star from the end of the handle of the Big Dipper is an optical double star. The ability to perceive this separation of these two stars, Mizar and Alcor, was considered a test of good vision and was called the "test" or presently the Arab Eye Test. This article is the first report of the correlation of this ancient eye test to the 20/20 line in the current Snellen visual acuity test. This article describes the astronomy, origin, history, and the practicality of this test and how it correlates with the present day Snellen visual acuity test.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Astronomy / history*
  • Child
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Persia
  • Stars, Celestial*
  • Vision Tests / history*
  • Visual Acuity