Uses of the word "macula" in written English, 1400-present.

Research paper by Stephen G SG Schwartz, Christopher T CT Leffler

Indexed on: 11 Jun '14Published on: 11 Jun '14Published in: Survey of Ophthalmology


We compiled uses of the word "macula" in written English by searching multiple databases, including the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, America's Historical Newspapers, the Gale Cengage Collections, and others. "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); as a corneal lesion, including the earliest identified use in English, circa 1400; and to describe the center of the retina. Francesco Buzzi 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 by 1799, and subsequently used in 1818 by James Wardrop, which appears to be the first known use in English. The Google n-gram database 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. Modern databases provide powerful tools to explore historical uses of this word, which may be underappreciated by contemporary ophthalmologists.