Even today, Christians and creationists believe that Charles Darwin himself was troubled by its existence – seizing upon an (oft-misquoted) aside in Origin of Species, where Darwin remarked that the whole idea of something so flawless “could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” The eye has become a focal point for biologists, ophthalmologists, physicists and many other branches of science ever since.
So when the Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal made the first anatomical diagrams of neurons and the retina in 1900, it stoked a century of biologists attempting to unlock the eye’s secrets. Unlike our ears and nose, for example, which never stop growing our entire lives, our eyes remain the same size from birth.
As one of the directors at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, he was one of the world’s leading experts in stem cell technology.
His team had pioneered incredible new techniques for creating organ-like structures – making giant strides towards a future where replacements for our failing human organs could be grown in a Petri dish.
Costing €73,000 (£58,000) to install, it then sends images – albeit very low-resolution shapes – to the user’s brain.
And there are other astonishing inbuilt systems too.
But the thing about technology is that it evolves with amazing speed.” Less invasive, “wearable” optic gadgetry is catching up fast.
Although still in its infancy, the ability to mount microelectronics within a contact lens is already offering huge potential.
In very basic form, the eye is thought to have first developed in animals around 550 million years ago.
But such is its perfect design – its infinite adaptability, and irreducible complexity – that many argue it is proof of the divine itself.