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`color{red} ♦` INTRODUCTION
`color{red} ♦` THE HUMAN EYE


You also studied the nature, position and relative size of images formed by lenses. How can these ideas help us in the study of the human eye?

The human eye uses light and enables us to see objects around us. It has a lens in its structure. What is the function of the lens in a human eye?

How do the lenses used in spectacles correct defects of vision? Let us consider these questions in this chapter.

We have learnt in the previous chapter about light and some of its properties. In this chapter, we shall use these ideas to study some of the optical phenomena in nature. We shall also discuss about rainbow formation, splitting of white light and blue colour of the sky.


The human eye is one of the most valuable and sensitive sense organs. It enables us to see the wonderful world and the colours around us.

On closing the eyes, we can identify objects to some extent by their smell, taste, sound they make or by touch. It is, however, impossible to identify colours while closing the eyes.

Thus, of all the sense organs, the human eye is the most significant one as it enables us to see the beautiful, colourful world around us.

The human eye is like a camera. Its lens system forms an image on a light-sensitive screen called the retina. Light enters the eye through a thin membrane called the cornea. It forms the transparent bulge on the front surface of the eyeball as shown in Fig. 11.1.

The eyeball is approximately spherical in shape with a diameter of about 2.3 cm. Most of the refraction for the light rays entering the eye occurs at the outer surface of the cornea.

The crystalline lens merely provides the finer adjustment of focal length required to focus objects at different distances on the retina. We find a structure called iris behind the cornea. Iris is a dark muscular diaphragm that controls the size of the pupil.

The pupil regulates and controls the amount of light entering the eye. The eye lens forms an inverted real image of the object on the retina.

The retina is a delicate membrane having enormous number of light-sensitive cells. The light-sensitive cells get activated upon illumination and generate electrical signals.

These signals are sent to the brain via the optic nerves. The brain interprets these signals, and finally, processes the information so that we perceive objects as they are.

`bbul" Power of Accommodation"`

The eye lens is composed of a fibrous, jelly-like material. Its curvature can be modified to some extent by the ciliary muscles. The change in the curvature of the eye lens can thus change its focal length.

When the muscles are relaxed, the lens becomes thin. Thus, its focal length increases. This enables us to see distant objects clearly. When you are looking at objects closer to the eye, the ciliary muscles contract.

This increases the curvature of the eye lens. The eye lens then becomes thicker. Consequently, the focal length of the eye lens decreases. This enables us to see nearby objects clearly.

The ability of the eye lens to adjust its focal length is called accommodation. However, the focal length of the eye lens cannot be decreased below a certain minimum limit.

Try to read a printed page by holding it very close to your eyes. You may see the image being blurred or feel strain in the eye. To see an object comfortably and distinctly, you must hold it at about `25 cm` from the eyes.

The minimum distance, at which objects can be seen most distinctly without strain, is called the least distance of distinct vision. It is also called the near point of the eye. For a young adult with normal vision, the near point is about `25 cm`.

The farthest point upto which the eye can see objects clearly is called the far point of the eye. It is infinity for a normal eye. You may note here a normal eye can see objects clearly that are between `25 cm` and infinity.

Sometimes, the crystalline lens of people at old age becomes milky and cloudy. This condition is called cataract. This causes partial or complete loss of vision. It is possible to restore vision through a cataract surgery.


Sometimes, the eye may gradually lose its power of accommodation. In such conditions, the person cannot see the objects distinctly and comfortably. The vision becomes blurred due to the refractive defects of the eye.

There are mainly three common refractive defects of vision. These are (i) myopia or near-sightedness, (ii) Hypermetropia or farsightedness, and (iii) Presbyopia.

These defects can be corrected by the use of suitable spherical lenses. We discuss below these defects and their correction.

(a) `bbul"Myopia"`

Myopia is also known as near-sightedness. A person with myopia can see nearby objects clearly but cannot see distant objects distinctly.

A person with this defect has the far point nearer than infinity. Such a person may see clearly upto a distance of a few metres. In a myopic eye, the image of a distant object is formed in front of the retina [Fig. 11.2 (b)] and not at the retina itself.

This defect may arise due to (i) excessive curvature of the eye lens, or (ii) elongation of the eyeball. This defect can be corrected by using a concave lens of suitable power.

This is illustrated in Fig. 11.2 (c). A concave lens of suitable power will bring the image back on to the retina and thus the defect is corrected.

(b) `bbul"Hypermetropia"`

Hypermetropia is also known as far-sightedness. A person with hypermetropia can see distant objects clearly but cannot see nearby objects distinctly.

The near point, for the person, is farther away from the normal near point (25 cm). Such a person has to keep a reading material much beyond 25 cm from the eye for comfortable reading. This is because the light rays from a closeby object are focussed at a point behind the retina as shown in Fig. 11.3 (b).

This defect arises either because (i) the focal length of the eye lens is too long, or (ii) the eyeball has become too small. This defect can be corrected by using a convex lens of appropriate power. This is illustrated in Fig. 11.3 (c).

Eye-glasses with converging lenses provide the additional focussing power required for forming the image on the retina.

`bbul"(c) Presbyopia"`

The power of accommodation of the eye usually decreases with ageing. For most people, the near point gradually recedes away. They find it difficult to see nearby objects comfortably and distinctly without corrective eye-glasses.

This defect is called Presbyopia. It arises due to the gradual weakening of the ciliary muscles and diminishing flexibility of the eye lens. Sometimes, a person may suffer from both myopia and hypermetropia.

Such people often require bifocal lenses. A common type of bi-focal lenses consists of both concave and convex lenses. The upper portion consists of a concave lens. It facilitates distant vision. The lower part is a convex lens. It facilitates near vision.
These days, it is possible to correct the refractive defects with contact lenses or through surgical interventions.