Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/814

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794
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

COLOR-BLINDNESS AMONG RAILROAD EMPLOYÉS[1]
By WILLIAM THOMSON, M.D.,

PROFESSOR OF OPHTHALMOLOGY IN THE JEFFERSON MEDICAL COLLEGE OF PHILADELPHIA.

THE conflict between the officers and the employés of the Reading Railroad, with its forty-two thousand employés on three thousand miles of track, which has occupied recently the attention of the public, and has threatened to produce a suspension of work on that road, has reopened the question of color-blindness among railroad employés, and led to a full demonstration of its existence among those engaged even as engine-men, where the defect might lead to serious accidents, with loss of property and life. The officers of the road have selected the system for examination suggested by the writer, and employed to a full success for more than live years past on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and have appointed me to supervise its details, and, as ophthalmological expert, to decide all doubtful cases after careful examination of those found defective by the non-professional examiners of the company.

The conflict is nearly over, since demonstrations of the optical defect in engineers, made before a committee appointed by the employés have satisfied them of the propriety of the testing, and that the safety of the traveling public demands the removal of all color-blind persons from positions where their optical defect might be the cause of distressing accidents. In the recent demonstrations, I was able at my office to show that an engine-man declared a red danger-signal, made by placing red glass in front of a large gas-light at a distance of two feet away, to be a green light; he was also not only unable to distinguish a red from a green flag within six feet, but he failed to classify the flags, white, red, green, and blue, properly, even when allowed to take them in his own hands.

The system adopted by the Reading Railroad is the one in use on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and owes its value to the fact that large bodies of employés can be brought under inspection, and their defects discovered by non-professional examiners. It has been fully described in the "Medical News" of January 14, 1882, in the second edition of Nettleship's work on "Diseases of the Eye," and in a paper read before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in September, 1884, and in "The Popular Science Monthly" for February, 1885, and to those sources the reader is referred for further information.

Previous to its adoption by the officers and directors of the Pennsylvania Railroad two thousand men were examined, and their blanks

  1. An article on this subject, by Dr. Thomson, was published in the "Monthly" for February, 1885, and, as a continuation of that paper, we give herewith from the "Medical News" an account of the more recent experience of the Pennsylvania Railroad with the system of examinations mentioned, and the results of its application to other lines.—Ed.