© 2005

Perception and Illusion

Historical Perspectives


Part of the Library of the History of Psychological Theories book series (LHPT)

About this book


The understanding of perception is central to our knowledge of the mind. Yet paradoxically, this understanding was born of centuries of fascination with errors of human perception. Perception and Illusion: Historical Perspectives elegantly retraces this scientific journey, not only in terms of its trials and errors but in its complex relationships with painting and medicine, philosophy and physics.

In this accessible volume, Nicholas Wade surveys over two millennia of scientific inquiry and research, describing the evolution of theories of light, sight, and illusion from early naturalistic observation to our sophisticated present-day experiments. Optics, physiology, and ophthalmology are seen emerging from beneath the burden of tradition and dogma. So, too, do doctors and thinkers studying the senses become practitioners devoted to specialized domains.

    • The Greek foundations of perception: Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy
    • Art and perception before and after the Renaissance: color mixing and linear 
    • The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: ocular anatomy meets optical science; the 
    separation of sight from light
    • Perception and behavior: illusions and the roots of psychology in the nineteenth
    century; the fragmentation of the senses; harnessing space and time
    • Perceptual innovations in the twentieth century: from infant vision through visual
    physiology to virtual reality.

Perception and Illusion: Historical Perspectives is illuminating reading for students of the history of psychology, optics, and medicine, and provides insights into the history and progress of science. In addition to charting these visual milestones, Wade reminds the reader in an articulate manner of perceptual controversies—including some of the most basic ones—that have yet to be resolved.


Accommodation anatomy brain experiment language nature perception physiology science

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of DundeeDundeeUK

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Perception and Illusion
  • Book Subtitle Historical Perspectives
  • Authors N.J. Wade
  • Series Title Library of the History of Psychological Theories
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005
  • Publisher Name Springer, Boston, MA
  • eBook Packages Behavioral Science Behavioral Science and Psychology (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-387-22722-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-4419-3557-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-0-387-22723-8
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIV, 250
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Psychology
    Clinical Psychology
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


From the reviews:

"Wade has published numerous books and articles on perception, many of which deal with the history of research in this area. The present volume continues this trend … . Wade carries the historical account up to the present and concerns himself almost exclusively with vision, emphasizing the associations among art, illusion, and the scientific study of perception. … Highly recommended." (R. H. Cormack, Choice, Vol. 42 (10), 2005)

"Nicholas Wade is an active empirical visual scientist who has also become a leading historian for our subject. ... He has now presented an overall view of the history of perception, with an emphasis on visual perception. … The book is clearly written in an engaging style and provides the only broad but concise review of the history of the main topics in perception." (Prof. Ian P. Howard, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 41 (4), 2005)

"Nicholas Wade of Dundee University is characteristic of the breed of scientist-historian: he is respected for his own experimental work on visual perception, but he has also established himself as one of the foremost historians of visual science. … Perception and Illusion begins in the time of Euclid and Aristotle … . He ends with the late 20th-century view of the human observer as an information-processing system … . Despite this vast territory, Wade has a firm and accurate grasp of his material." (John Mollon, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, October, 2005)