lincoln portrait Young Lincoln portrait

by Edward J. Kempf, M.D. Wading River, N.Y.

Practical Adaptation to Gloomy Eyestrain

The continuous tendency to visual decoordination was sufficient to increase nervous fatigue and depression of mood or “spirit” upon prolonged use of the eyes, particularly for reading. Such conditions tend in most youths to induce discouragement of reading, lethargy with laziness, and a preference for reading from a reclining position to ease the eyestrain. Despite his impairment, Lincoln was an eager student and liked to lie on the floor and read aloud by the light of the open wood fire. Later, as a man, he often read in a reclining position on a couch or on the floor and preferred to read aloud.

We have additional evidence of how Lincoln's neurovisual difficulties influenced him in everyday life. His work as a lawyer and politician required him to read excessively. He adapted to this by learning to scan pages rapidly for essentials and by developing a highly retentive memory. When it was unnecessary to use his eyes or mind, he would lapse into his characteristic semi-withdrawn mental state, previously described.

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