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About W.H. Bates MD - Pioneer of Vision

Brief Biography of William Horatio Bates MD

WilliamWilliam Horatio Bates, was born in Newark, NJ, on December 23rd, 1860. He was the son of Charles and Amelia.

He graduated from Cornell University in 1881 and In 1885 graduated with a medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.

In 1883 he married Edith Kitchell of New York, and had a son, Halsey Bates. Edith died in 1886.

Establishing a practice in New York city, he served for a time as clinical assistant at the Manhattan Eye and Ear hospital and beween 1886-1888 was attending physician at Bellevue hospital. Between 1886-1898 he worked at the New York Eye infirmary, the Northern dispensary and the Northeastern dispensary.

Between 1886 and 1891, Dr Bates was an instructor of ophthalmology at the New York Postgraduate Medical School and Hospital. Despite his successful practice in New and his strong reputation as respected eye surgeon, it is here that he has his first brush with the "Establishment". During his work at the hospital, he encouraged the doctors who had been perscribed glasses for Myopiai, to discard them. He cured their Myopia, but got expelled for unorthodoxy, by Dr. Roosa, the head of the institution, who disagreed with his methods.

In 1894 while trying to determine the therapeutic effect over the active ingredients of the endocrine glands, he discovered astringent properties and haemostatic aqueous extract of adrenal capsule, then marketed as adrenaline.

In 1896 Dr. Bates resigned his hospital appointments and began to engage in experimental work.

In 1896 he announced this discovery in a paper read at the Academy of Medicine in New York.

He introduced a new operation for the relief of persistent hearing loss in 1896, which was to sting or affect the membrane of the ear drum.

In August,1902 one of the strange events of his life occurred. He simply disappeared. His second wife Margaret finally tracked him down to London, where he was working as an assistant in the Charing Cross Hospital, London, where he had been taken as a patient. She found him in a nervous and exhausted state with no recall of recent events. She took him to the Savoy hotel but two days later he disappeared again.

Margaret Bates sought her husband in Europe and the United States in vain, tracing every clue that reached her, but she died in 1927, before he was heard of again. How he was discovered and induced to return to New York and resume his practice has never been revealed in detail. According to the best version, a fellow-oculist, Dr. J. E. Kelly, found Dr. Bates, by accident in 1910, practicing in Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he had began to successfully implement his methods for preventing myopia in schoolchildren in the public schools there. A few months later the two men occupied offices together in New York. He worked as attending physician at the Harlem Hospital and thereafter Dr. Bates worked as hard and as successfully as he had done before his original disappearance. In his Obitiary, this incident was perhaps wrongly attributed to 'a strange form of aphasia'(amnesia).

He soon began implementing his methods for the prevention of myopia in some public schools in New York City. At the Harlem Hospital he began to work together with Emily Lierman, who had improved her eyesight using his methods ,they married in 1928. They held free 'Clinic days' several times per week, usually having long lines of people waiting to be helped.

In 1919 he published his famous book, "The Cure of Imperfect Sight by Treatment Without Glasses" which was later renamed to "Perfect Eyesight Without Glasses". This book was printed at his own expense and in it he exhibited his theories, which were largely opposed to the established practices of opthalmology. He also wrote several articles to describe his methods.

Between 1919 and June 1930 He produced a monthly magazine called "Better Eyesight". The magazine included his own articles and day to day cases from his clinic.

In 1928 he married Ms.Emily Ackerman Lierman, who had been his assistant and partner in experimental research for seventeen years.

He died on July 11th 1931 after a year's illness.

William Bates - The Man

Dr. Bates was described as a quiet and modest man, a serious student of literature and astronomy, with a weakness for children. He loved sports, particularly tennis, in which he won many titles, and was state champion when he lived in North Dakota. He was an excellent runner and at the advanced age of fifty-eight years was still capable of winning a race.

His contribution to the understanding of vision is both controversial and profound. For all the criticism and professional difficulties his beliefs created in his life - his work has saved the sight of thousands. And no matter how hard the establishment attempt to dismiss his work, the empiral evidence that his methods work is incontrovertible and being supported by modern research that is increasingly seeing the impact of mental state on vision which was the essential tenet of his work.

He married at least three times, he fought the establishment and his sudden disappearances perhaps seem to indicate that he was a free thinker and hint at a more complex personal life that would have been completly unacceptable within the strict victorian society in-which he worked.