Of a family with 40 members, 12 had autosomal dominant optic atrophy. The affected members were aware of reduced vision from the first decade. Visual loss was moderate to severe, 6/12 (20/40) to 3/60 (10/200). The affected members showed similar centrocecal scotomata. Most affected patients had severe unclassified color defects. Electroretinography measurements were normal in all but one patient who had a small reduction in the scotopic response. The pathologic changes in a patient with autosomal dominant optic atrophy showed diffuse atrophy of the ganglion cell layer of the retina with a loss of myelin and nerve tissue within the optic nerves. We suggest that autosomal dominant atrophy is a primary degeneration of retinal ganglion cells.