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The last image. On the history of optography

Poster Details

First Author: K.Gerstmeyer GERMANY

Co Author(s):    D. Ogbourne   S. Scholtz           

Abstract Details


To identify, by fixation on the retina, the last image a person appears to see before dying and its use in criminology. It was first explored in the 17th century and then at the end of the 20th century where the forensic use of optography was still a matter of research. This poster shows us the history of optography.


(1) International Vision Correction Research Centre (IVCRC), Dept. of Ophthalmology, University of Heidelberg, Germany (2) Museum for Optography, UK (3) Augen-Praxisklinik Minden, Germany


Selective literature, research of books and articles in journals via PubMed, Google Scholar and Google, in close cooperation with the " Museum of Optography" .


In the middle of the 17th century, the monk Christopher Schiener discovered by chance, on the retina of a frog an image of a flame. This he interpreted as the last thing the frog had seen before it had died. Fixing this last image on the retina became known as an " optogram" (optography: the process, optogram: the product). In the 260 years of history of optography the region of Heidelberg has mainly been its centre of research: Heidelberg“s physiologist Wilhelm Kühne produced the first identifiable optograms. He uncovered in the eye of an executed man in Bruchsal, 1880 the first human optogram. In 1975 due to improved knowledge and modern techniques the importance of optography for criminology had been evaluated again by ophthalmologists from Heidelberg and conclusively assessed negatively.


If any, the scientific importance and benefit of optography is rated as minimal today. Historical considerations of using optography as a forensic instrument have never been realized. Meanwhile, as a subject for the visual and literary imagination optography has been a fruitful area of investigation, often interpreting this fascinating borderline between life and death in new and exciting ways. FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE?: No

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