Looking Through John Dalton’s Eyes – by Anne Haydock (part of Brief Encounters)

24:7 Theatre Festival 2015. Write a 5-minute monologue about a Manchester scientist. Hmmm, that sounds interesting. Now, who can I think of…?

John Dalton Street Sign

Then, walking down Deansgate, I suddenly had an idea…

John Dalton Portrait

I rushed home to Google John Dalton (1766-1844)…


Atomic Theory

… and discovered he had only gone and invented atomic theory!

Wow! There must be something in that. Seeing the world in a brand new way, made up of millions and millions of tiny little balls.

Then, I found out John Dalton was colour blind, so he literally did see the world in a different way. This was even more interesting.

Colorwheel Deuteranope

A metaphor was growing in my writer’s mind, about vision and creativity and originality and not being understood.

But the eureka moment for my monologue was finding out that John Dalton instructed his physician, Joseph Ransome, to remove his eyes after his death and dissect them to look for the cause of his colour blindness.

Severed Eyeball

Suddenly, I had a narrator and a story…

(Joseph Ransome staggers on, shocked, one hand covering his face and the other hand in front of him, bloodied, fingers closed round something.)

 Ah… what is it I have done?  I have done it, as he asked…  (opens out his bloodied hand, revealing a pair of severed eyeballs)

 … I have taken out his eyes …

John Dalton’s preserved eyeballs are still in Manchester’s MOSI, 170 years later, downstairs in ‘Collections’. I have seen them! They look like this…

John Dalton's Eyeballs

Looking Through John Dalton’s Eyes is part of Brief Encounters (6 Monologues).