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Stephen G Schwartz, Christopher T Leffler; Uses of the Word “Macula” in Written English, 1400-Present. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):5593. doi: https://doi.org/.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To review common uses of the word “macula” in written English from the early 1400s through the present day.
The word “macula” was searched in multiple databases, including the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, America’s Historical Newspapers, the Gale Cengage Eighteenth Century Collections, the Oxford English Dictionary, Google Scholar, and the Google n-grams database.
“Macula” has been used: as a non-medical “spot” or “stain”, literal or figurative, including in astronomy and in Shakespeare; as a medical skin lesion, occasionally with a following descriptive adjective, such as a color (macula alba, macula materna); as a corneal lesion, including the earliest identified use in English, circa 1400; and to describe the center of the retina. Francesco Buzzi (1751-1805) first described a yellow color in the posterior pole (“retina tinta di un color giallo”) in 1782, but did not use the word “macula”. “Macula lutea” was published by Samuel Thomas von Sömmering (1755-1830) by 1799, and subsequently used in 1818 by James Wardrop (1782-1869), which appears to be the first known use in English. The Google n-gram databse shows a marked increase in the frequencies of both “macula” and “macula lutea” following the introduction of the ophthalmoscope in 1850.
“Macula” has been used in multiple contexts in written English, including many non-medical ones. Modern databases provide powerful tools to explore historical uses of this term, which may be underappreciated by contemporary ophthalmologists.
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