Modern Medicine Time Machine Presents: The Bates Method

Let’s take a break from talking about modern day myopia rehabilitative practices, client reviews, and viable eye health topics.  Instead, let’s talk today, about a time, long, long ago.   A time where medicine was […]

Jake Steiner

Dec 11,2013 · 7 min read

Let’s take a break from talking about modern day myopia rehabilitative practices, client reviews, and viable eye health topics.  Instead, let’s talk today, about a time, long, long ago.  

A time where medicine was as much a matter of vivid imagination, as it was an excellent time to not get sick.

We easily forget, how as recently as 50 to 100 years ago, our species had preciously little idea about the human body and what not to do to it, or put into it.  

Why do I want to go back in the medicine time machine today?

Because, Bates.

The Bates Method, occasionally discussed here on the blog, somehow continues to exist on the Internet.  I can only guess as to why this might be, but in any case – in order to better understand the viability of William Bates and his method, I want to highlight the state of things back in his day, first.

If we go as far back as William Bates times, 90 and more years ago, medicine was really very fascinating:


There were excellent treatments, such as ‘soothing syrups’ for children.  These contained a rather interesting combination of active ingredients, including:  “…morphin sulphate, chloroform, morphine hydrochloride, codeine, heroin, powdered opium, cannabis indica,”

Chloroform, powdered opium, heroin. 

If you lived in Bates Method times, during times when you could have actually gone to see the man about your eyes, you might have stopped off to buy some heroin syrup for your children.

I am not trying to paint an excessively gruesome picture about what age this was that created “eye exercises”, but … powdered opium for your children.

And before we move ahead about 50 years, past Bates times, I can’t resist but just give you one other little example of the medical insights of the time: 

Diet pills, made of dried (and sanitized, naturally) tape worms.  


What is surprising, that with all the “eye yoga” programs on the Internet today, that all of these other precious treatments somehow did not make it to the web.  Granted, clients send me humorous health claim sites quite often, and they do try to hold their own, but imagination has just gone lacking in our modern times.  

If only we had lived during Bates Method times, we all could have enjoyed a much wider variety of (more natural, even) remedies for our health.

And of course, I am very much skewing here, as there are a few things from that time that made it into modern medicine.

Don’t ask me to quote any, but there are things.

The point is this:  Bates lived in a time during which we were utterly clueless about the human eye.  His method showed some success in large part, because myopia did not exist to the degree it does today.

Myopia is a close-up strain symptom which becomes progressive myopia, and axial elongation of your eyeball when you combine it with wearing your distance glasses while focused up close.

Back in Bates Method times, we did not spend all day at office jobs, staring at computer screens.  We didn’t play games on our smartphones during lunch breaks, and go home to watch TV in the evening.  We didn’t spend nearly as many years in school, with not nearly as much reading and general close-up use.

William Bates lived in a time when myopia was just an eye focusing muscle spasm.

Back then, yes, you could put your palms in front of your eyes, and … visualize (I am reaching here, I don’t remember all of his tape-worm-age-of-medicine terminology).  You can, you could, resolve a muscle spasm with “eye exercises”.

It was a problem much like removing a small wood splinter from your small toe.

Today’s myopia is more of the scope of compound fractured leg, than a wood splinter.  The tweezer variety of a “cure” that Bates offered, is not going to apply in today’s axial elongated eye type of myopia symptom.

The big problem with the Bates Method is, that it is used to refute the viability of myopia recovery.

Since for whatever mysterious reason it is the #1 most plagiarized, reformatted, adapted basis for almost all online “myopia cure” programs, the people who have gone to search for a myopia cure, ended up with a case of the Bates.

Did I mention that heroin was used as cough medicine, in Bates days?


Heroin, and hydrochloride.  

Interestingly enough, Bayer is not only still around, but a huge pharmaceutical company.  We have come a long way …

Also interestingly, might you know of the other medical practice that survived not only from back in that time, but actually several centuries before, to deal with myopia?

Glasses.  Glasses were actually invented in the 13th century.first glasses

That’s a time way before we even thought of heroin cough medicine and opium for our children.

Unfortunately we did not evolve much from that particular invention.  Even though the side effects of wearing glasses include such inconvenience as your eyesight further deteriorating (in many cases rapidly – the average rate is -0.75 diopters per year), they are still widely prescribed.


They do the job, and since our lifestyle is basically myopia inducing, it is really the most viable short term fix (besides laser surgery, a nicely modernized way of barbaric level understanding of our eyes).

And since we are on the subject of barbaric practices, and a general lack of understanding of our bodies, and the medicine time machine, let me remind you of this gem:


The inventor received the Nobel prize for this invention in 1948.  The practice basically involved an ice pick like object pushed through your eye socket into your brain, to shred part of your brain.

This was prescribed for just about any symptom you can imagine, including anxiety, and depression.

That was 1948.


Glasses, 13th century.  Opium for your children, early 20th century.  Mid 20th century, ice picks in your brain to fix depression.  There is an interesting article about a case on NPR.

And if you do feel tempted to revisit the past, Bates Method style, please do avoid the ice picks.  We have since fortunately realized that this is not a solid medical practice for curing depression.  Unfortunately however, we have not made such strides on the subject of glasses (or as far as the Internet is concerned), Bates’ method for curing your myopia.

I have a page with links to actual modern day science on this topic (here).

By no means exhaustive, but a starting point if you want to treat your body with something a bit more recent than the age of ice picks., the journal for investigative ophthalmology , is filled with insightful studies. tracks medical studies, including a large number of eyesight related subjects.

One of the main top links of this site encourage you to be skeptical.  

You are here, at a place where we talk about myopia rehabilitation, as a concept of physical rehab.  The Four Pillars discuss the ingredients – reducing strain, managing prescriptions, positive stimulus, tracking progress.

And this works, as you should not take my word for, but end up finding after doing your own research.

As for Bates and his Bates Method … I don’t know.  The Internet should perhaps be better left to cat memes.  And if you were hoping for cat memes, I understand it is Internet etiquette to make such contributions:

bates method cat meme



Jake Steiner

Reformed stock trader. Kite surfer, pilot, vagabond. Father. And of course - the last of the living, imaginarily bearded eye gurus.

Topic:  Bates Method

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