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