Talk:William Bates (physician)

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Bates as an Ophthalmologist[edit]

I can't see Bates listed on the American Ophthalmological Society membership list [[1]]. Was he actually an Ophthalmologist? I gather that he did some eye surgery but I'm not sure that he is officially an Ophthalmologist.--Vannin (talk) 01:56, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

As noted on the Bates method talk page, Elwin Marg in his article does refer to Bates as an ophthalmologist. It is possible, even likely, that Bates' credentials were revoked at some point, but I haven't found anything on that specifically. PSWG1920 (talk) 02:18, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Rather than his qualifications being revoked, I suspect he never had them in the first place. The similar case would be Freud, often viewed as a Psychiatrist, but in fact the specialty of Psychiatry did not exist at that time, so the article on Freud refers to him as a Physician. The American Ophthalmological Society was started in 1864, so it would have been possible for Bates to have joined it, but the records show that he was not a member. In 1917, the American Board of Ophthalmology had its first board exams, but by this time Bates was already well on the outside of the profession and he had had his fugue state and run off to London and then disappeared, so I doubt he was writing exams and getting board certified at that point. I suspect that it has been assumed that Bates was an ophthalmologist, partly because he was working in a hospital doing eye surgery (just as Freud was doing psychiatric treatments) but that does not make either one specialists until the specialty is formally established. The point being, of course, that any physician would be allowed to do put up a shingle and practice psychiatry or do eye surgery as they chose --Vannin (talk) 16:21, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
I don't know if this helps, but here is something from right after he disappeared which refers to him as an ophthalmologist. PSWG1920 (talk) 16:34, 24 August 2008 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I cannot get that book very easily. He may well have described himself as an Ophthalmologist, although in his magazine articles he seemed to talk about Ophthalmology as if he was an outsider and not as somebody who belonged. The bottom line is that he does not show up in the American Ophthalmological Society list, which is the organization that seemed to start the specialty in the US. So the evidence seems to be that he was not an Ophthalmologist, no organization "blessed" his credentials.--Vannin (talk) 22:13, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

"pioneer in the field of refractive surgery"[edit]

I've reverted the two edits [2] by The book referenced discusses Bates in the context of being an above-average surgeon of the head, the context of being mentally unstable himself, and of having an unyielding infatuation with his own ideas. Because none of this context has been kept, I thought the information best moved here for discussion: --Ronz (talk) 16:45, 25 August 2008 (UTC)

In Archives of Ophthalmology, vol 23, 1894, Bates published a suggestion for a surgical procedure to correct astigmatism. In the paper he describes the ability of relaxing corneal incisions to produce flattening of steep curvatures. He also goes on to describe two cases in which he has applied such incisions to successfully treat astigmatism.[1] This is the first known refractive surgeries ever performed on humans.

I can't see where the source says that Bates is beeing mentally unstable, or how that would be relevant to this. The author says that: "Bates eventually MAY (my emphasize) have become, in the vernacular, 'loony-tunes'". However, I can't see why this should count as more than one person's point of view, and therefore why this would be worthy of mention in the article - and it certainly doesn't change the fact that Bates was a pioneer in refractive surgery. When it comes to NPOV problems with this article, I am much more concerned about the part titled "Bates' mental health", where in my opinion some of the editors have taken the liberty to freely speculate, and insinuate medical diagnoses which aren't found in any of the sources. That part's title needs to be changed, and the content should be rewritten to simply state the facts - not the editors' own speculations about them. Syd75 (talk) 17:37, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
Here is another source that simply says that Bates was the first to do the operation, without any of the speculations about whether or not he was infatuated with his own ideas aso.:
The article written by Bates about the operation can be found at: Syd75 (talk) 17:48, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
"I can't see where the source says that Bates is beeing mentally unstable, or how that would be relevant to this." See the discussion on why these early procedures were not followed up with further research until recently. Page 275 in section "Loose gears sink careers".
"I am much more concerned about the part titled "Bates' mental health" I agree that there is a WP:SYN problem with this section. --Ronz (talk) 18:52, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for fixing my text formatting, Ronz.
I read the section "Loose gears sink careers" and even quoted a sentence from it. I still have to say that it never says that Bates is beeing mentally unstable. And even if it did, I think this is completely irrelevant to the fact that Bates was the first person to perform astigmatic keratotomy.
As for the "Bates' mental health" section, this title strongly suggests that Bates suffered from some sort of mental illness apart from the two apparent incidents of aphasia (which is usually caused by head injury). This would be pure speculation, as it is not backed up by any references. If one first is to allow pure speculations into the text, I think other scenarios is equally likely. Bates wrote a letter to his wife while she was away, saying that he had to leave the city for awhile. He then ships away most of his books and equipment, and is not heard from again. His wife finds him after a short while working at a hospital in London. He then seems nervous and quickly disappears again. He works in another hospital in US, before silently returning to New York after his wife has died. My guess is that he simply couldn't stand his wife, and since he was living in a time where divorce was no option, he simply chose to flee from her. But then again, I don't think it's the editors' job to speculate about these things. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Syd75 (talkcontribs) 20:16, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
p 275: "Bates eventually may have become, in the vernacular, 'looney-toons'- but that looniness was singular, involving mostly the topic of myopia."
re: aphasia: I think we need to stick to the references. I've tagged the problematic portion of the sentence. --Ronz (talk) 21:04, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
re: "mental health" heading. There is really nothing derogatory or POV in the term mental health. Many really great people have mental health issues, just as they may have physical health issues. And if he had aphasia, then he had mental health issues. (although he is more likely to have become depressed. The obituary says that he was taken to the hospital in London as a patient and then was working as an "assistant" in a "exhausted, nervous state".--Vannin (talk) 21:19, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
re: "mental health" heading. There might not be anything derogatory with the term "mental health", but I still think another title would fit the content better. "Bates' mental health" might mislead some readers to conclude that Bates was supposedly suffering from some sort of insanity. There's even more to the story of the two disappearances than I mentioned above. After Bates' wife received a letter telling her that Bates was working at Charing Cross Hospital in London, Bates' father sendt her a letter telling her that he had received a telegram saying he wasn't there after all, and that she shouldn't go looking for him. The letter arrived too late to stop her from going to London. After she found him in London and he disappeared again, some family members of Dr. Bates made sure that she lost custody of his son with allegations that she kept the son "imprisoned and strained". All in all, I think it's a lot of evidence pointing to that Bates' only mental health problem was a very unhappy marriage.Syd75 (talk) 21:46, 25 August 2008 (UTC)
re: adrenaline, and what about astigmatic keratotomy? I agree with your latest edit on the adrenaline section, Ronz. You can btw find several independent sources by searching Google Books for "1896 bates eye extract", but unfortunately they don't seem to be available online.
What about the astigmatic keratotomy article? I find this so significant that it needs to be mentioned in an article about Bates. Above I wrote that Bates was the first person to perform astigmatic keratotomy. More research made me conclude that I was wrong about this. Schiötz from Norway preceded him in 1885. Still, the article by Bates from 1894 was significant enough to be mentioned in a large number of books and articles about refractive eye surgery. I once also saw some British ophthalmological association refer to him as the "father of refractive surgery", but I can no longer find that source. Syd75 (talk) 18:17, 2 September 2008 (UTC)


This could become quite an interesting biographical article, if we can find quality, independent, reasonably accessible secondary sources which discuss Bates apart from his method. I'll begin listing what I find.

  • Refractive Eye Surgery, 2001. As discussed above, this was previously referenced in the article but was removed. Let's figure out how to properly use it.

PSWG1920 (talk) 22:52, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

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Links to publications[edit]

Such links are even less appropriate in this article. Can we keep initial discussions at Talk:Bates_method#Links_to_publications for now until we get the coi problems out of the way, as well as get a general agreement on what might be appropriate where? --Ronz (talk) 15:50, 15 August 2015 (UTC)

  1. ^ Leo D. Bores (2001). "Refractive Eye Surgery". Blackwell Publishing. pp. 273–275.