Magnetic coil (MC) stimulation percutaneously of human occipital cortex was tested on perception of 3 briefly presented, randomly generated alphabetical characters. When the visual stimulus-MC pulse interval was less than 40-60 msec, or more than 120-140 msec, letters were correctly reported; at test intervals of 80-100 msec, a blur or nothing was seen. Shifting the MC location in the transverse and rostro-caudal axes had effects consistent with the topographical representation in visual cortex, but incompatible with an effect on attention or suppression from an eyeblink. The MC pulse probably acts by eliciting IPSPs in visual cortex. The neural activity subserving letter recognition is probably transmitted from visual cortex within 140 msec of the visual stimulus.