President’s Day: Why Abe Lincoln Couldn’t Look You Straight in the Eye

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863

A bit of a late Salute Sunday..

Abraham Lincoln..cat lover, lawyer, sixteenth president of our grand US of A. Called “Honest Abe”, he had an affliction that kept him from looking you straight and directly in the eye, oddly enough.

Lincoln, like me, had strabismus. In some of his portraits, especially ones in which we view the President straight-on, you can see this. His left eye would to roll upward, especially when he was tired or stressed. News reports of his fiery 1860 presidential election debates with Stephen Douglas describe Lincoln’s eye as “rolling wildly” as he spoke!

Also as in my case(although mine is the left), Lincoln’s dominant right eye did most of the work of seeing, especially for close-up work like reading.

Lincoln’s left eye was set slightly higher in his head than his right, and his left eyelid drooped a bit. He suffered a head injury at age ten when a horse kicked him, which may have resulted in nerve damage and paralysis of the eyelid on that side, but it is unclear whether the strabismus was caused from the accident or was congenital. Lincoln also suffered from double vision at times.

Abe, I know exactly what you had to deal with. After a lifetime of rolling eyes, years of double vision and three surgeries, at last my eyes are 98% fixed. It’s a shame they couldn’t correct the problem in your day.

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