Thursday, 17 March 2016

WAS CAPTAIN BRUCE COLOUR BLIND?

HC Deb 12 July 1909 vol 7 cc1817-8W
Mr. HENNIKER HEATON 
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether there is any civilised country in the world, besides our own, which regards the wool test, the official test of the Board of Trade, as a reliable test for colour blindness; whether he is aware that not a single ophthalmic surgeon of eminence in this country is of opinion that the wool test is an efficient one; and whether he can state how many, if any, of the examiners of the Board of Trade, either those employed in the first instance or on appeal, have any knowledge of physiology or ophthalmology?
Mr. CHURCHILL 
I am obtaining information as to the countries which have adopted the Holmgren Wool Test as a test for colour blindness in the Mercantile Marine. This test was adopted by the Board of Trade on the advice of a Committee of the Royal Society, which comprised both eminent physiologists and physicists, and I have reason to think that the highest scientific opinion is in favour of its efficiency. One of its advantages is that it can be applied by persons who possess no knowledge of physiology or ophthalmology. No such knowledge is, therefore, demanded of the Board of Trade examiners in the first instance. But in the supervision of their tests, in the instructions of their examiners and in the conduct of their special examination on appeal, the Board have the advantage of the services of two acknowledged authorities on colour vision —both Fellows of the Royal Society, who hold the degree of Doctor of Science.

If Captain Bruce had been colour blind he would have had difficulty distinguishing between the red port side light and the green starboard light, particularly at night. Red light seen at a distance is the most difficult (dim) colour of the spectrum to distinguish. This suggests that if Captain Bruce was colour blind, he would have seen green rather than red. No, I think he was not colour blind and he saw the distinct red port side light of the Waratah. It is interesting to note that a significant proportion of the general population have red / green colour blindness which makes the choice of port and starboard lights rather dodgy. However, I am quite sure colour blindness would have prevented a mariner from becoming master of a vessel. And oh yes, Alfred Harris saw the distinct red port side light as well.....


.....and then everything fell apart when bush fires became all the rage.



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