B. Joy Jeffries Collection, 1800-1915. WAM 21127-21131, 22251-22258

Dublin Core


B. Joy Jeffries Collection, 1800-1915. WAM 21127-21131, 22251-22258


Surgical Instruments
Color Perception Tests
Jeffries, B. Joy (Benjamin Joy), 1833-1915
Jeffries, John 1796-1876
Jeffries, John, 1745-1819
Dix, John Homer, 1813-1884


Benjamin Joy Jeffries, known as B. Joy Jeffries, was born in Boston on March 26, 1833. His father, John Jeffries (1796-1876) was a physician and his grandfather, also John Jeffries (1745-1819) had been a surgeon of the British Army during the American Revolution. B. Joy Jeffries received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1854 and his M.D. in 1857. He traveled to Vienna to study under Professors Arlt and Hebra. When he returned to Boston he opened a free dispensary with Dr. Francis P. Sprague (1834-1921) and Dr. James C. White that specialized in dermatology and ophthalmology. Over time he focused more and more on ophthalmology until it became his sole specialty. He was an ophthalmic surgeon at the Massachusetts Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary from 1866-1902, at which point he resigned and became a consulting surgeon. Jeffries is best known for his work in the field of color blindness. He published five papers on the subject in 1878, starting with “The Incurability of Congenital Color-Blindness”. These papers were followed by his book, “Color-Blindness, its Dangers and Detection” in 1879. Other notable publications include “Observations on a Peculiar Expression of the Eyes of the Color-Blind” (1881), “Color-Names, Color-Blindness and the Education of the Color-Sense in our Schools” (1882), and “Report of Examination of 27,927 School Children for Color Blindness” (1889). Jeffries was an advocate for color blindness testing, especially for railroad employees and sailors due to safety concerns related to signals. He was a proponent of Holmgren’s test, which involved the patient matching skeins of colored yarn to determine accuracy based on color group. Jeffries died in Boston on November 21, 1915.

This collection of ophthalmology instruments contains items used by B. Joy Jeffries as well as his father, John Jeffries (1796-1876), grandfather, John Jeffries (1745-1819), and the physician John Homer Dix (1813-1884). The majority of these instruments were donated by B. Joy Jeffries in 1906 for an American Medical Association exhibit curated by Dr. Townsend W. Thorndike. Jeffries made the donation for the exhibit with the intention that these objects would help found a permanent collection of historical medical instruments. The test for color-blindness was used by B. Joy Jeffries and was donated by his son in law, James Howard Means.

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