gms | German Medical Science

Artificial Vision — The 2nd Bonn Dialogue. The International Symposium on Visual Prosthesis

Retina Implant Foundation

19.09.2009, Bonn

A brief review on the history of electrical stimulation of the human eye

Meeting Abstract

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Artificial Vision – The 2nd Bonn Dialogue. The International Symposium on Visual Prosthesis. Bonn, 19.-19.09.2009. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc09ri01

doi: 10.3205/09ri01, urn:nbn:de:0183-09ri015

Published: November 30, 2009

© 2009 Gerding.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



The principle idea to use electrical stimulation in order to cure visual system defects goes far back into the history of modern science. Electrical stimulation experiments were very popular in the Enlightenment. Before 1751 Benjamin Franklin performed stimulation experiments of the eye and as early as 1755 Le Roy tried to elicit electrically evoked phosphenes in blind people, nearly three decades before the description of bioelectric stimulation by Galvani (1786). Since then pioneers, eccentrics, and serious scientists have performed a colourful and sometimes curious series of electrical stimulation experiments in humans. Many of the ideas involved and the results achieved trend to be forgotten, but seem to be worth a deeper reflection. The idea of electrical stimulation by retina implants became reality with the project of Tassicker in 1956. He already performed long-term implantation trials in humans. In 1962 Brindley was evaluating the possibility of transscleral stimulation of the retina before developing his visual cortex approach. With major steps forward in microtechnology, microfabrication and vitreoretinal surgery a new area of retina implant development was entered in the last two decades. Figure 1 [Fig. 1], Figure 2 [Fig. 2].