Dr. Bates was an orthodox doctor in New York City, and considered an authority by members of the ophthalmological profession. In 1886 he introduced a new operation for relief of persistent deafness consisting of incising the eardrum membrane, an operation still in use today. In 1894, as a research physician, he discovered the astringent and hemostatic properties of the aqueous extract of the suprarenal capsule, later commercialized as adrenaline.

Dr. Bates was not satisfied with the prevailing theory of accommodation (how the eye focuses). The prevailing theory of accommodation was, and still is, that the curvature of the lens of the eye is the only part responsible for accommodation and that inflexibility of the lens causes failing sight. This happens to a large number of the population around the age of 40 and is commonly called “old age sight,” presbyopia, or farsightedness. But this term doesn’t apply to younger children who certainly cannot fall into this category, nor anyone who has not reached age 40. For the opposite problem we are told that the eyes are abnormally long or, in other words, it is a structural problem of the eyeball. This is commonly called myopia or nearsightedness. This still does not account for the fact that before the person had eye problems there was no structural problem.

William H BatesFor years Dr. Bates felt there was something wrong about the procedure of prescribing glasses to patients who came to him about their eyes. “Why,” he asked, “if glasses are correct, must they continually be strengthened because the eyes, under their influence, have weakened? Logically, if a medicine is good, the dose should be weakened as the patient grows stronger.” Dr. Bates gave up his lucrative practice and went into the laboratory at Columbia University to study eyes as they had never been studied before. Disregarding all he had learned in textbooks, he experimented on eyes with an open mind. He ran experiments on animals and examined thousands of pairs of eyes. He never restricted himself to the usual eye examination room, but carried his retinoscope with him, inspecting the refractive state of eyes of both people and animals in many different situations. He refracted eyes of people when they were happy and sad, angry and afraid. Much of this time was spent with children attempting to discover the cause of eye disorders. His retinoscopic findings indicated that the refractive state of the eye was not the static condition textbooks reported, but varied tremendously with the emotional state.

He published an account of a little girl who developed temporary myopia when she lied to him. This fact seemed very significant to him as it was consistent with other findings that people tend to become myopic when apprehensive. Dr. Bates found that the eye is never constantly the same, that refractive error can change momentarily – that mental strain and tension can increase it and relaxation can decrease it. His conclusions were that imperfect sight is not possible without first a mental strain; that eyes are tough to what happens from the exterior; that they can mend rapidly from scratches, bumps, and even burns; but that they can be blinded by mental strain.

Dr. Bates discovered the cause of poor eyesight and developed this method of restoration and normalization of poor eyesight. Integral Eyesight Improvement is the original method as taught by Dr. Bates and furthered by Margaret Corbett. Dr. Bates wrote “Perfect Eyesight Without Glasses”, a book outlining his discoveries as well as eleven years worth of monthly publications called “Better Eyesight” accounting personal findings and research with case histories.