It is now over 100 years since Dr William H Bates first began researching into the causes and relief of poor sight. He developed a system of visual techniques to reawaken the natural function of the eyes and mind...

He found he could use his method for short sight, long sight, astigmatism, old-age sight, squint, 'lazy' eye, and even structural diseases such as macular degeneration. He found anyone could be benefited by learning normal and relaxed use of the eyes and mind.

His discoveries were both radical and thought-provoking; and brought much attention from the media and members of the public, who were very impressed with Dr Bates' ideas.

Bates had fully trained as an ophthalmologist and in the late 1800s ran his practice as conventionally as any other: he put people in glasses and told them there was nothing that could be done about it. How he changed his opinion to the opposite view is not fully known, but the change was conclusive.

However, his radical new view was also an unpopular one. He was known by his colleagues to be a gifted man: he had also been a brilliant surgeon who had discovered the properties of adrenalin, and he pioneered an ear operation for helping deafness that is still in use today. Dr Bates was clearly someone who would push the boundaries of knowledge without being intimidated, but in spite of the respect he had earned, his new direction for the care of vision was, for some, too far-reaching.

The latter part of his life, until his death in 1931, was punctuated by episodes of conflict between himself and his former colleagues; and many attempts were made to discredit him. Near the end of his life he was due to appear in court in an attempt to prevent him from working, but his death prevented the hearing from taking place.

Over the years nothing had diminished his conviction that a revolutionary change was needed in understanding of how vision, the mind, and the whole person works. His detractors were unable to stop him: Bates was a fully trained medical man and knew all the arguments against his new model inside out.

The people who followed in Bates' footsteps have come to his method from a different route. A new model of vision required a new approach, and almost all practitioners of the Method are rarely medical people. They are educators.

After Bates' death the road has continued to be rocky. One of his students, Margaret Corbett, was taken to court on two occasions in the 1940s on a charge of practicing medicine without a licence. On both occasions she was acquitted as she was able to successfully prove that what she had been doing was educating people about their eyes. One charge brought against her was that she advocated a practice that would lead to retinal burns - and in response 300 witnesses appeared to her defense, including some Hollywood stars; all were tested and every one had healthy retinas.

While the cases were won, the crushing pressure took a serious toll on the structure of the community of Bates teachers. Margaret Corbett herself had trained many teachers and after this experience she advised them: don't advertise, don't stick your neck out. It's just not worth it.

The years that have followed until the present day have been characterised by fragmentation and disconnection. Organised bodies for the Bates Method have remained small and tucked away. In some areas of the world the misrepresentation of the method has continued - even in recent times some excellent teachers have been hounded by the authorities and made to move or cease practising.

With the development of the Internet a global community is starting to form and the network of teachers that has been so long in disarray is finally becoming cohesive.

We're proud at and Bates Method International to be the forerunners of the Bates Method on the Internet. The method works in so many ways to the benefit of people with eyesight problems. In contrast to conventional eyesight care, its educative approach shows people how to apply healthy vision habits, rather than stumbling on with the same habits that got them into visual difficulty in the first place.

We think it makes sense that eyes should need no artificial aids to seeing. Humans are undoubtedly ingenious, but instead of devising ever more complicated ways of bypassing nature, let's use that brilliance to discover what nature provided in the first place.

Welcome to Seeing!

On a tomb in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence was found the following inscription: "Here lies Salvino degli Armati, Inventor of Spectacles. May God pardon him his sins

Nuova Encyclopedia Italiana, sixth edition. BEMs July 1920

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