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John Dalton's preserved eyeballs and hair

John Dalton's preserved eyeballs and hair

H404/0118

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Credit

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

Caption

John Dalton's eyes. The dessicated remains of the eyes (under watch-glasses) of English chemist John Dalton (1766-1844), with one of his letters and a lock of his hair. 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 body tissues are in store.

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