Optical connections: A literary detachment

David Baker recounts the life of CP Snow, novelist and chemist, whose personal experience provided one of the most detailed descriptions of a detached retina in literature

CP Snow

CP Snow is best remembered for coining the phrase ‘two cultures’ to describe the seemingly unbridgeable gulf in understanding between those engaged in science on the one hand and humanities on the other. Trained as a scientist, he himself crossed that divide by also being a writer of fiction, his works including a sequence of 11 novels following the life of a somewhat semi-autobiographical scientist and administrator.

In the 10th of those novels, the central character suffers a detached retina, which has ramifications in the final volume of the cycle. These events followed closely those of the author, making his literary description of his character’s experiences of particular interest for eye care professionals.

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