An 'implanted' eye?

You'll have to pardon the appalling pun, but whereas the museum is used to dealing with ocular implants, we were totally surprised to be sent an artificial eye that had been found amongst the plants.

Share options

Artificial eye with marked dots on the sclera

This prosthesis was dug up by its donors in their garden in Derby and one might speculate whether it was supplied by the well-established Derby opticians Lancaster & Thorpe who were certainly behind other artificial eyes in our collection.

What marks this eye out from the others (apart from the unusual circumstances of its discovery...was it lost whilst weeding one day?) are the four differently coloured dots on the outer edge.

One dot for the right eye and two dots for the left is a common convention, intended primarily for the maker whilst working on them (since most patients only require one artificial eye, so would kind of know which side to put it in). Bilateral prosthetic patients might have raised dots on their prostheses (a bit like braille) to help them feel for the correct eye. These dots, however, number more than two and are coloured. It is possible that they are intended as an indication of the iris colour, perhaps in a fitting set. In such a scenario the practitioner has a stock of ready-made eyes and needs to select from this stock the one most likely to suit the patient before him. Alternatively the maker might be making eyes for several patients at any one time and need a way to keep track of them in his or her workshop until they can be issued to the patient. It has been pointed out that the dots would be invisible when the eye was in use.

Can any of our readers either confirm one of our theories or provide another explanation?