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John Dalton's preserved eyeballs

John Dalton's preserved eyeballs

H404/0117

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Credit

JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

John Dalton's eyes. The desiccated fragments under this watch-glass are the eyes of English chemist John Dalton (1766-1844), whose colour blindness has been linked to a gene extracted from the 150- year-old tissue. Although best known for proposing the atomic theory of matter, Dalton was also the first to describe colour blindness scientifically, based on his own case. Believing the fluid in his eyes to be blue, he asked a physician to dissect them after his death. He was wrong, but the eyes were preserved and enabled scientists in 1995 to recover Dalton's DNA and identify the faulty gene. The work may pave the way for genetic studies of other historic figures whose tissues are in store.

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