They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but in truth they are a window back in time and a clue to the complex process of evolution.

On Thursday, Nov. 15, the West Virginia University Department of Biology and the WVU Neuroscience Club will host Dr. Ivan Schwab, noted ophthalmologist and scholar. The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will be from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Ming Hsieh Hall room G21. A question and answer session and reception will follow the lecture.

Schwab recently published “Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved,” and will speak about his research into the evolution of the eye.

“Dr. Schwab’s lecture promises to be a fascinating look at the development of the eye, from the oldest and smallest micro-celled organisms, to insects, birds and the human eye,” said Richard Thomas, chair of the Department of Biology. “His book is filled with wonderful imagery and diversity, and we are excited to have him with us to share his research.”

Schwab will take lecture guests back in time to the Cambrian period, approximately 543 million years ago, when the very first eyes developed, into the present day. The Cambrian period spawned nearly all forms of the eye, followed by descent over hundreds of millions of years providing an unimaginable variety of eyes with at least 10 different designs. Some eyes display spectacular creativity with mirror, scanning or telephoto optics. Some eyes are merely curiosities, while others offer the finest visual potential packed into a small space, limited only by the laws of diffraction or physiological optics.

Each animal alive today has an eye that fits its niche perfectly, demonstrating the intimacy of the evolutionary process as no other organ could. The evolution of the eye is one of the best examples of Darwinian principles.

Dr. Schwab obtained his undergraduate degree in biology at WVU and his M.D. at the WVU School of Medicine. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the California Pacific Medical Center and is now a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine.

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