Health and Light
John N. Ott
The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man and Other Living Things.
How light can work for you ...
for your health, your emotional well-being and your vibrant energy ...
no matter where you live or work!
Published by Pocket Books – New York
Copyright John Ott Pictures, Inc.
First printing 1973 – ISBN: 0-671-80537-1
Reprint edition (April 1, 2000) – ISBN: 0-898-04098-1
[ This is a Must Read Book for ALL Parents, and a MUST HAVE BOOK for
ALL Teachers, School Administrators, Social Workers, Doctors, Clergy and
Court Officials !!!
Science Teachers: This book will provide you with dozens of ideas for
science fair and classroom projects. — Tommy — ]
Although slow-motion photography has been known for many years, it has not been popularized until recently, when Americans have come to expect “instant replays” in sporting events on television. These are motion pictures taken at higher-than-normal speed. When they are then projected on the screen at normal speed they appear to slow the motion and make it possible to analyze a golf swing, determine the winner of a horse race, or follow a football player who receives a pass and runs for a touchdown.
There had been little use for the opposite type of photography, which gives the illusion of speeding up motion by means of taking single exposures at relatively long intervals until John Ott began, while in high school 45 years ago, to experiment with what is now known as “time-lapse” photography. Fortunately for mankind, his hobby led eventually
to a full-time career as a photo-biologist. It is also fortunate that he had the fortitude to persevere against great odds; his chosen field was so new that much of the necessary equipment had to be designed by him and custom-built. Furthermore, some projects that he undertook required whole years to photograph even though the showing time of the resultant film was only a minute or two. Flowers and plants were among his first subjects. One of these films involved the growth of the banana from the emergence of the first shoot to the mature fruit. This project required ten cameras and two years to complete. Another sequence showing flowers, made to appear to dance by controlling light
direction and temperature, took three years to produce – even though it lasted only two
minutes on the screen.
Anyone who has observed individual cells under a microscope is aware of the fact that activity usually occurs so slowly that nothing seems to be happening. However, because of Ott's pioneering work in time-lapse photography, science has a new and invaluable tool, which has almost limitless application. It is now possible, for example, to observe and record what happens within a single living cell – or to watch mitosis, or cell division,
take place and to see changes that occur when a given stimulus such as a drug is introduced into the cell's environment.
It was while conducting a series of experiments in which individual cells were being photographed as certain drugs were introduced into their environment that Ott noted that changing the filters over the camera lens from one color (or wavelength) to another often had a greater effect on the cells than the drugs. This observation led to further studies on whole animals and the discovery that the quality of light is of great importance to both animals and man. It had long been recognized that the quality of light is important to plants, but Ott's work now showed that the process of photosynthesis in plants is only carried on at full efficiency in the presence of the complete spectrum of sunlight.
Man has lived on this earth for at least 100,000 generations and has been almost completely dependent upon the sun for light – until about five generations ago when
Edison developed the incandescent lamp. Research has now demonstrated that the full spectrum of daylight is important to stimulate man’s endocrine system properly and that he suffers side effects when forced to spend much of his time under artificial light sources that reproduce only a limited portion of the daylight spectrum. It therefore became obvious to Ott ten years ago that the design of artificial light sources should be changed to broaden their spectral analyses. His attempts at that time to persuade two of the major manufacturers of light sources in America to do so failed, but it was my good fortune subsequently to be instrumental in prevailing upon the executives of a third company in the field to undertake such a project arid to retain him as consultant. As a result, it has since produced a fluorescent light source that – for the first time in history –
virtually duplicates daylight. Some remarkable testimonials have come from many industrial plants that have since installed this new lighting such as substantial reductions in absenteeism and accident rates and marked increases in production.
It would not be presumptuous in the least to look at him as a twentieth-century Leeuwenhock. As the 18th century Dutch scientist used the scientific “toy,” – the
microscope – and opened up new worlds to mankind, so has John Ott taken the motion picture camera, added Leeuwenhoek’s “toy” and made a remarkable break through in the study – and understanding – of light.
Recognition of his untiring research work has come to John Ott in the form of citations and awards from horticultural, scientific and medical societies, plus the Grand Honors Award of the National Eye Institute (in 1967) for an important contribution to eye care. In 1971, he was asked to give a seminar to scientists who were designing the 2
specifications for the first United States space station. They wanted his counsel on the problem of growing vegetables for astronauts in space. His papers have been published in many scientific and educational journals, including those of the New York Academy of Sciences, the National Technical Conference of the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Fourth International Photobiology Congress at Oxford, the New York Academy of Dentistry and others.
There is much still to be learned about the effects of light on plants, animals and man, but there is enough knowledge already available to provide important guidelines to manufacturers, architects and scientists who can directly influence the environment in which millions of people work and live. It has been my privilege to enjoy the opportunities of collaborating with John Ott in a small way for the past ten years. I firmly believe that the reader will gain important insights from Health and Light.
– JAMES WINSTON BENFIELD, D.D.S.
Introduction by James W. Benfield, D.D.S.
1. THE LIGHT SIDE OF HEALTH 5
2. HOW IT BEGAN 8
3. THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM 15
4. RELUCTANT APPLES AND TIMID TIGER LILIES 18
5. LIGHT AND THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM 23
6. I BREAK MY GLASSES 29
7. AN EXPERIMENT WITH PHOTOTHERAPY ON HUMAN CANCER PATIENTS 37
8. CHLOROPLASTS AND LIGHT FILTERS 39
9. ANIMAL RESPONSE TO LIGHT 49
10. BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF TINTED LENSES 57
11. EFFECTS OF RADIATION ON BIOLOGICAL 67
12. THE TV RADIATION STORY 71
13. TRACE AMOUNTS OF RADIATION AND FULL-SPECTRUM LIGHTING 82
14. PHOTOBIOLOGY COMES OF AGE 86
15. ROUTINE OPPOSITION TO NEW IDEAS AS STANDARD PROCEDURE 98
16. SIGNS OF ENCOURAGEMENT 105
About the Author 123
Ever since the research of William Rowan in the 20s we have known that seasonal changes in the lengths of daylight and darkness have a significant effect on bird migration as well as upon mating periods for some species. Out of such studies, also, have grown the poultry industry’s programs of lengthening short daylight hours in winter by means of artificial light in order to increase egg production. The response of the hens is due to the light energy entering the eyes and stimulating the pituitary gland. This has given rise to strong evidence that the endocrine system of mammals responds to particular wavelengths of visible light as well as other areas of the total spectrum, including the
longer wavelengths of ultraviolet that penetrate the atmosphere.
This book is the outgrowth of extensive time-lapse photography, described in an earlier book, My Ivory Cellar. Some of that work will be summarized in order to provide the proper prelude to what we believe to be the pioneering studies of our Institute today. Actually, most of the research on the influence of light on the human endocrine system has grown from our observation of plant and animal growth responses to wavelength variations in the distribution of light energy – a result of time-lapse pictures of plants
growing and flowers blooming. This work has been developed over more than forty years.
As man has become more industrialized, living under an environment of artificial light, behind window glass and windshield, watching TV, looking through colored sunglasses, working in windowless buildings, the wavelength energy entering the eye has become greatly distorted from that of natural sunlight.
Much of the development of modern lighting has, unfortunately, been toward the use of light sources of increasing distortion. For example, the “natural white” fluorescent tube used in many hospitals to give the patients more color is greatly distorted from natural light. The sharp peak of energy in the red or longer wavelengths can make a pale, peaked patient look as though he had just come back from a vacation in a sunny climate. Flattering? Perhaps, but it creates an utterly false impression.
The tremendous significance of the rapidly developing body of knowledge about variations in wavelengths of light energy has finally spurred several big corporations to design products that permit the full spectrum of natural sunlight to enter the eye. Too little is known generally, however, about the importance of providing an environment of natural light indoors, where so many people must spend a major part of their time. It is our hope at the Environmental Health and Light Research Institute that this book will help chart new pathways toward that goal, as well as toward breakthrough findings in the fields of various ills that plague mankind.
– John N. OTT
Environmental Health and Light Research Institute Sarasota, Florida
THE LIGHT SIDE OF HEALTH
"You look in the pink of condition.”
“I could tell that he was positively green with envy.”
“When I heard her say that, I saw red.”
Each of these phrases uses color in a figurative manner – relating a hue to an emotion,
physical condition or attitude. When we use such expressions we recognize of course that we don’t mean to have them taken literally. When was the last time you saw someone actually turn green with envy?
Still, as the scientific evidence comes in, we are becoming more and more aware of the fact that a very definite relationship exists between the colors that make up what we perceive as “white” or natural sunlight and our physical and mental health.
Perhaps the use of the word “colors” in the above sentence is a bit misleading. We
generally think of a color as something we can see. But what we know as colors makes up only a part of the spectrum.
For scientific purposes, different colors are defined in terms of a measuring system in which the wavelength is the standard unit. Each color has its own wavelength. The length of a color’s wavelength determines its proper place in the spectrum.
But there are areas of the spectrum we cannot see. These areas are also measured in terms of wavelengths. The wavelengths, which define these areas, are either longer or shorter than those, which define colors.
For instance, ultraviolet wavelengths are shorter than those to which the human eye is sensitive. Those beyond human perception at the opposite end of the visible spectrum are infrared. There are areas of the spectrum even shorter than the ultraviolet band or longer than the infrared band. Some arc capable of penetrating through most ordinary types of building materials as easily as the light we see passing through glass.
Wavelengths shorter than ultraviolet and longer than infrared are usually referred to as radiant energy. It is possible to be in an environment in which the eye cannot perceive
anything except total darkness and yet be exposed to radiant energy in one form or another with the organism responding accordingly. The latter statement is one, which poses a fascinating mystery – a mystery I became more and more compelled to probe into.
And so I found myself becoming more deeply involved with responses to light and radiation as I pursued my work in time-lapse photography.
I began to open up whole new areas of investigation into light, particularly when I added the microscope to my equipment. Microphotography has been known and used for many
years; I put it into motion via time-lapse and found things no one had ever seen or suspected.
I was able to observe the movements of cells in Elodea grass, but more than that, in the course of my own experiments I learned that the cells behaved quite differently under different colored lights. Mostly, these cells perform in an established pattern when exposed to any natural sunlight condition. I soon found, however, that they broke the established pattern and displayed many variations when different filters were used in the microscope light. I could make the cells go in different directions. I could cause some of them to stand still while others took up the new patterns.
While plants were the first living things I worked with, my quest soon took me to cells from animals. Here again I found that I could create radical changes within the cells by changing color in the microscope. I could increase their metabolic activity. I could kill them.
Working with live animals – laboratory mice – I discovered that various kinds of lighting
conditions could affect them physically. Not only did the changing lights cause external physical changes; the lights had a definite effect on their sex lives and life spans.
In order to cover ALL the areas that presented themselves as worthy of investigation, I found myself entering into worlds other than my own, worlds which ranged from Hollywood motion pictures to TV stations, mink farms, a prison, a restaurant where all the employees seemed inordinately healthy, and a dozen other areas I might not have entered normally.
My primary work, of course, centered on my own time-lapse studio and in various scientific laboratories where I was privileged to work or observe.
I was to find clues in very unlikely places – clues to the effects of light on life-and health.
Yes, it became clearer after a while that there was some mysterious link between light and the mental and physical health of humans.
The key to all this seemed, to me, to lie in the simple act of light entering the human eye. I found many dramatic examples of changes in health when sunglasses were worn by an individual – or taken away. I found interesting improvements in physical conditions when the subjects were exposed to full-spectrum lighting or exposed to natural sunlight over long periods – without benefit of ordinary glasses.
I learned, with total fascination, of the Congolese who decided to wear sunglasses as status symbols, and what happened to their general health collaterally – or coincidentally.
Most of the things I learned were fascinating and compelling, but one instance, stumbled upon accidentally and which led to some of the most dramatic experiments ever performed, was frightening in its implications. The results of these experiments caused congressional investigation, recall of a product by a major American manufacturer, 6
unplanned and hurried testing in industrial laboratories and radical revision of certain standards in the product involved. The story, described in detail later on, might be called “The Case of the Tired Children.”
Out of all these quests and probings have come some good things, but I still remember the frustration of one who presents a case to science and finds the academic backs turned on him to a large degree. I realize that much more work must be done in the field of light, particularly in those areas where I have shown dramatically that light can and does affect human health; the problem seems to be in getting enough recognition and agreement from science itself to undertake this additional and extended work.
Fortunately, some of the good things I mentioned above have already made progress. One of the ideas I have stressed in linking light with health lies in the fact that ordinary eyeglasses, windows in homes and automobile windshields screen from the eyes most of the ultraviolet which reaches us in natural sunlight. And depriving the human of that ultraviolet can become a strong obstacle to improving health. We humans manage to survive even with that deprivation, but now industry is taking some steps to restore the opportunity of receiving ultraviolet in the way in which it should be introduced into the system. Several companies are now making new types of eyeglasses and contact lenses, which will not block ultraviolet. These neutral gray sunglasses and tinted contact lenses are designed to cut down all wavelengths evenly, including the ultraviolet, so that the natural balance of light will not be upset and colors distorted.
New types of fluorescent lights, which closely duplicate natural sunlight, are now being made. What this does, simply, is bring a close approximation of natural sunlight indoors.
These are but first small steps in the journey toward understanding and proper utilization of light. And they’re only surface-scratchers. One of the areas I am most vitally interested in is cancer research and, as you read along, you’ll learn of some of the startling results I have gained by linking light to cancer therapeutically. And therein lies another of my major frustrations, but that’s a story that unfolds later in this book.
As we have seen, the kinds of intensities of light we are exposed to have a great deal to do with our health. Who knows? Perhaps sometime in the near future relationships between the full spectrum of the sun’s natural rays and health will be better understood.
Then, to keep well and happy, we may find ourselves being put on “light diets” in the same way we go on food diets today.
Yes, there is more to the rainbow than meets the eye.
HOW IT BEGAN
The principle of time-lapse photography is very simple. It is just the opposite of slow-motion pictures, with which most people may be more familiar. Instead of slowing fast motion down, it speeds up many times faster than normal such subjects as a flower opening, or the complete growth of a plant on the screen in a few seconds. The actual time represented may have been several months or even years. It is somewhat similar in principle to the animated cartoon type of picture. However, instead of drawing each frame or individual picture to be photographed by hand with the action advanced a little each time, live growing subjects are used. It is then necessary to wait for little growth to take place between each picture. In some instances, with rapidly developing microscopic subjects, this may be only a few seconds. With the opening of the petals of an average flower, it would be about every five or ten minutes, and with something like the development and ripening process of fruit that takes a much longer period of time, it might be one picture every hour or two. The time interval between pictures may have to be changed as the plant goes through different stages of development, such as the opening of a blossom, to the slower maturing process of the fruit. Nevertheless, the individual pictures must be taken regularly, day and night.
In observing the growth of plants, I noticed that the flowers and leaves always faced into the light and that the leaves noticeably drooped from lack of water, but would quickly revive when given a drink. I always placed the camera so that the constant daylight came from behind and thus the flowers in facing the daylight would also be facing directly into the camera.
One night I dreamed up a wild idea of controlling the light, temperature and moisture to make the leaves of the plants move in different directions. To accomplish this, it was necessary to construct special flowerpots that would move around on wheels. In each pot was placed a small electric heating element and a water tube. Many different flowering plants were tested and primroses were found to respond best to this treatment. A few more Refinements on my timing contraption and everything was set. The flowerpots were pulled around on a track like an old-fashioned cable car, but at a speed of about ? inch an hour. The heating elements were turned on at the proper time to wilt the leaves down and the plants were given just the proper amount of water to revive them again. A battery of lights was first turned on one side and then the other, which would attract the leaves from side to side. Thus it was possible to move the plants around a miniature stage and control both the up and down motion and also sideward motion of the leaves. It only remained to synchronize this motion to music. This sequence lasted only two minutes on the screen but required five years to complete, including an interruption of two years while I was in the Navy. These dancing primroses have always caused considerable comment, and later I used them as the opening theme for my television programs.
Obtaining some of the necessary electrical equipment for the dancing primroses was often a problem, especially following the war period while priorities were still in force. 8
Everybody always wanted to know why I needed a particular type of switch and what I intended doing with it. At first I tried to avoid any direct reference to the waltzing primroses but was always given some excuse for a further delay in delivery of the equipment needed. Finally I told the manager of the sales department of a particular company that I had to have a certain automatic switch in order to take pictures of my dancing primroses doing a Strauss waltz. It was hard for me to keep a straight face. The sales manager must have thought the easiest and quietest way to get rid of me was to let me have the switch.
The waltzing flowers were not the only subjects that required special equipment. I had experienced considerable difficulty in trying to make time-lapse pictures of corn growing in the glass greenhouse. Although the pictures were good, the corn always grew spindly. The ears would not develop to normal size, and the leaves were long and narrow. It was not possible to take time-lapse pictures of corn growing outdoors because of the wind and weather. The leaves would be in a different position for each picture. Finally I tried growing corn outdoors and letting different plants develop to different stages. Then I built a makeshift enclosure around them and tried to photograph the formation of the ears and tassels after the plant had grown out in the open and up to the time these parts began to appear. In making the enclosure, it was more convenient to use some of the new plastic sheeting that had just come on the market. The corn grew much more normally under plastic than it did under glass so I began experimenting with the growing of corn and other plants under different kinds of plastic.
Most ordinary glass stops over 99 per cent of the ultraviolet radiation whereas some plastics allow approximately 95 per cent or more to pass through. The practice of old-time experienced nurserymen in completely removing the glass sash from the cold frames during the daytime to expose the young seedling plants to direct sunlight always interested me. The improved growth warranted the additional labor of completely removing the sash in place of raising it a little for ventilation during the daytime, and replacing it again at night when there might be danger of frost. The results of using plastic in place of glass were so much better that I decided to build a new plastic greenhouse entirely without glass. This was unheard of at the time, so I had to call on my friend, Herman Schubert, to fabricate the entire structure in his machine shop. It was built in sections, then dismantled and moved to the selected location in the back yard where it was reassembled again.
The roof, east, south and west sides were made of clear plastic, so the growing plants would receive much more sunlight. These large areas had to be covered with automatic shutters that closed each time a picture was taken in order to have the same amount of photographic light as in the basement studio. These large shutters, like giant Venetian blinds, worked independently of each other and automatically followed the sun so that the louvers all remained parallel to the rays of light as it moved across the sky. In this way they created the least amount of shadow and let in the maximum amount of direct sunlight. The north wall was solid and was painted sky blue to act as a photographic background. Sky blue seemed to be the most natural color for a background and made it easier to match backgrounds of time-lapse pictures taken in the greenhouse with regular
shots made out in the field. The new greenhouse also had more headroom so tall corn and small trees could be grown inside. This made it possible to start taking time-lapse pictures of many more new subjects, and also created many more new problems.
When the new plastic greenhouse was completed to the point where time-lapse cameras could be started, the Ferry-Morse Seed Company wanted a time-lapse picture of one of their varieties of morning glories. This certainly appeared to be one of the simplest assignments I had ever undertaken. I planted some seeds in another small lean-to glass greenhouse by the garage. This was a good place to start some subjects and grow them until they were ready to photograph. As the morning glory vines neared the budding stage, I moved them from the glass house to the plastic house. Everything went well until the buds were just ready to open. Then bud after bud would collapse. Could it be the result of having moved or changed the growing conditions during the bud development period? Any such slight change of conditions should have been all for the better. Nevertheless, I started more seeds right in the plastic greenhouse where they could be photographed and nothing would have to be moved or changed in the slightest during the entire growing period. Again, exactly as before, the buds collapsed just when they should have opened. I could remember having seen morning glories growing in glass greenhouses with flowers in full bloom, so everything was cleared out of the glass greenhouse. Then cameras, lights, timers, shutters – the whole works – were moved in again, and more morning
glories were started from seed. This all took time and summer was just about over, but with any luck there should still be time for one more crop of morning glories. Though still disappointed about the results in the plastic greenhouse, the morning glories and cameras were all installed in the old glass lean-to alongside the garage. By slightly swallowing my pride – and with a little luck – this picture might still be completed during
the current year. But, as the buds again reached the point when they should open, the same thing happened – no luck.
The fact that the buds still refused to open in the glass greenhouse indicated perhaps the problem was not with the plastic after all. This in itself was quite gratifying even though I still did not have the needed pictures or any real clue to why the morning glory buds persisted in collapsing without opening. One thing learned right at the start in trying to take time-lapse pictures was not to photograph plants out of their normal growing season. It is hard enough with most plants, if not practically impossible, to grow them at all out of season, let alone trying to get flowers worth photographing People are not interested in looking at a poor picture, even though it may be of the impossible. This project had to go down in the records as unfinished.
But I was to get further clues to the solution of the morning glory problem from a surprising source. During the very early days of television, I was asked to appear on several programs and, show time-lapse pictures of flowers. These unplanned appearances, on one of Chicago's first stations, went so well that I was invited back again and again. After only a few Sundays of helping the station’s program director fill a half-hour, I was
surprised to see myself listed in the paper as a TV personality. The Sunday half-hours continued, and even expanded to include my participation either live or on film in a 10