Ernst Wilhelm Brücke on stereoscopic vision

Nicholas J. Wade (Lead / Corresponding author)

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In the early 19th century the doctrine of identical retinal points, linked with the Vieth-Müller circle, was a pillar of German physiological optics. It was challenged by Wheatstone's observations of stereoscopic depth perception announced in 1838; he also advanced a cognitive theory of binocular vision that attacked physiological interpretations. In 1841 Brücke mounted a defense of the doctrine by questioning Wheatstone's observations and offering an alternative interpretation in terms of the integration over time of a rapid sequence of convergence eye movements. The theory could not be sustained because of evidence that stereoscopic depth occurred without eye movements. Brücke also questioned Wheatstone's observations that with some stereoscopic displays stimulation of identical retinal points could result in double vision. The binocular combination of circles differing in size was accounted for by differentially dissociating accommodation in opposite directions for each eye from convergence. Despite the negative reaction to Brücke's proposals, his speculations about the nature of rapid eye movements and of their neural basis were ahead of his time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2022


  • Brücke
  • Wheatstone
  • stereoscopic vision
  • convergence
  • eye movements


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