Jonathan Miller (1934-2019) was an English theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and medical doctor. After training in medicine and specializing in neurology in the late 1950s, he came to prominence in the early 1960s in the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. He died 27 November 2019 at the age of 85. Obituary here.
At the age of 12, at the St. Paul’s School, his lifelong friendship with Dr. Oliver Sacks began. Indeed, the neurologist’s journey to international fame began when Mr. Miller showed the original manuscript of Dr. Sacks’s book “Awakenings” to a London publisher.
Another noteworthy interdisciplinary project was in 1983 with “States of Mind.” He interviewed the art historian Ernst Gombrich, the philosopher and scientist Daniel Dennett and others about consciousness and the brain.
In 1978 he presented “The Body in Question,” a 13-part BBC series about human biology during which he performed an autopsy on a dead vagrant. The book from that series, The Body in Question, is available here.
Many of us equate the variety of ways in which we see with John Berger’s classic book Ways of Seeing, also presented as a series on BBC. His book’s focus on cultural perspectives doesn’t touch on how differently humans and animals see. Berger later wrote an essay, “Why Look at Animals?” a part his 1980 anthology About Looking, which examines how we look at animals, but not how animals see.
A fascinating article in Atlantic brings to mind how limited our perspective is when we focus primarily on human seeing. The subject of how animals see is a fascinating field study, one that warrants more attention, as a recent article titled “This Animal Has a Suit of Armor With Hundreds of Built-In Eyes” reminds us. This article introduces a group of little-known sea creatures called chitons. They have evolved armor contains hundreds of eyes.
Chitons are mollusks, related to snails, clams, and octopuses. Their oval bodies are covered by a hard shell consisting of eight overlapping plates, which makes them look a bit like a woodlouse with a skirt, or perhaps like the forehead of a Klingon. In many species, these plates are dotted with hundreds of tiny beads, each less than a tenth of a millimeter across. These are eyes. Each contains a lens, a light-sensitive retina, and a layer of black pigment.
For links to a variety of examples on how animals see, visit Christopher Tyler’s Eye Page. He also includes links to a number of other sites. The image accompanying this post is from Tyler’s site. It is the eye of a female net-casting spider from Australia. The large lens concentrates light on the retina.
Screening of the optical movie Tim’s Vermeer followed by presentations and panel discussion by Tim Jenison, Philip Steadman, Christopher Tyler and Sir Colin Blakemore. European Conference on Visual Perception, Liverpool, August 22-28th.
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