Articles

The chemistry of John Dalton's color blindness

Science  17 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5200, pp. 984-988
DOI: 10.1126/science.7863342

Abstract

John Dalton described his own color blindness in 1794. In common with his brother, he confused scarlet with green and pink with blue. Dalton supposed that his vitreous humor was tinted blue, selectively absorbing longer wavelengths. He instructed that his eyes should be examined after his death, but the examination revealed that the humors were perfectly clear. In experiments presented here, DNA extracted from his preserved eye tissue showed that Dalton was a deuteranope, lacking the middlewave photopigment of the retina. This diagnosis is shown to be compatible with the historical record of his phenotype, although it contradicts Thomas Young's belief that Dalton was a protanope.

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