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IN History & Culture ON 22 Sep, 2015
How wonderful it would have been if our eyes could record the last image that they see just before we die, and in case, though God forbids, we were murdered or victimized, then it would have become easy for police to catch our criminals. But unfortunately, life is not that easy. However this belief was predominant in the late 19th and 20th centuries that the eye "records" the last image seen before death.
Optography is said to be a process of viewing or retrieving an optogram, an image on the retina of the eye. Although repeatedly debunked as a forensic method, there is a scientific basis behind the idea.
Much of the scientific work on Optography was performed by the German physiologist Wilhelm Kühne, who discovered that, under ideal circumstances, the rhodopsin could be "fixed" like a photographic negative. Kühne experimented on numerous animals and his most successful optogram was obtained from an albino rabbit, with its head fastened to face a barred window.
The Experiment: The rabbit's head was covered for several minutes to allow rhodopsin to accumulate on the retina. It was then uncovered for three minutes to expose it to the light, then decapitated and its eyeball sliced from top to bottom. The rear half of the eye was placed in an alum solution to enable fixation of the bleached rhodopsin, which resulted in a distinct image of the barred windows.
Dr W.C. Ayres, an American physician who assisted Kühne in his laboratory and translated his papers into English, dismissed the theory that optography on a human eye could yield a usable image for forensic purposes. In an 1881 article in the New York Medical Journal, Ayres stated that his own repeated experiments in the field had produced some optogram images, but they were not distinct enough to be useful, and he declared it "utterly idle to look for the picture of a man's face, or of the surroundings, on the retina of a person who has met with a sudden death, even in the most favorable circumstances".
Although, Optography would have made investigations easier, however, the process could not gain much momentum due to various flaws present in it.