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Edwin Robinson was claimed to have regained his sight after being struck by lightning. Can this really happen?

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    I read somewhere that early Transylvanian experiments with lightning were banned after an angry mob laid siege to a local castle containing a laboratory specifically designed to conduct research during thunderstorms. Allegedly, a lightning-reanimated corpse scared the townsfolk. If lightning could restore life, maybe it could cure blindness. – Paul Apr 1 '13 at 3:00
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    @Paul That's a myth. Please provide a reference. – Radu Miron Apr 1 '13 at 9:25
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    It is from the 1800s... should be public domain. Found it... it is kinda long, dont have time to search for the exact pages describing these events but it should be in there: gutenberg.org/files/41445/41445-0.txt – Paul Apr 1 '13 at 9:30
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    Lightning Injury Facts: uic.edu/labs/lightninginjury/ltnfacts.htm – bummi Apr 2 '13 at 10:16
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Can lightning restore sight?

Yes, if the cause of the blindness is "hysterical"

If you have a detached retina, cataracts, nerve damage, missing occipital lobe, eyeball trauma or other causes, lightning may be unlikely to effect a cure.


Note:

"hysterical blindness" is an old term for what is now called "conversion disorder".

A typical description is

Conversion disorder is a mental health condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation.

Causes

Conversion disorder symptoms may occur because of a psychological conflict.

Symptoms usually begin suddenly after a stressful experience. People are at risk of conversion disorder if they also have a medical illness, or the other mental health problem of dissociative disorder (escape from reality that is not on purpose) or a personality disorder (inability to manage feelings and behaviors that are expected in certain social situations).

Persons who have conversion disorder are not making up their symptoms (malingering).

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • With the blindness being "hysterical" it means it's of mental reasons? – Wertilq Apr 3 '13 at 14:55
  • @Wertilq: Yes - answer updated to clarify. – RedGrittyBrick Apr 3 '13 at 22:18
  • Which is funny because, etymologically, it should mean that it's caused by the uterus. – Avi Apr 4 '13 at 5:50
  • @Avi: yes, the use of that root in the word is evidence of the beliefs of scholars in classical times concerning the types of emotions and degree of rationality expected in men and women. Nowadays we mostly regard that as sexist nonsense but the word remains. – RedGrittyBrick Apr 4 '13 at 7:43
  • Good! That really improved the answer. – Wertilq Apr 4 '13 at 8:14

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