Michael Francis Land. 12 April 1942—14 December 2020





Citation of Original Publication

Cronin Thomas, Nilsson Dan-Eric and Osorio Daniel. "Michael Francis Land. 12 April 1942 — 14 December 2020." Biogr. Mems Fell. R. Soc.(06 September 2023). http://doi.org/10.1098/rsbm.2023.0023


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Michael (Mike) Land made lasting contributions to physiological optics of diverse animals and to understanding how animals and humans move their eyes. He combined a keen interest in natural history and evolution with elegant and accessible mathematical accounts of optics and vision. In the early part of his career he discovered focusing mechanisms based on reflection in scallops' and compound eyes, and elucidated the evolutionary and functional relationships between spatial resolution and absolute sensitivity in eyes. Starting with studies of how spiders and flies use eye and body movements to track and intercept moving targets, Land went on to apply similar principles to human visuo-motor behaviour. He described where we look during routine tasks, such as making tea, and in more exacting conditions, such as driving and playing cricket. He showed how eye movements are tailored top-down for a given task, and found that typically we foveate each location a fraction of a second before each action. Finally, he suggested how behaviour and awareness are anchored to an internal representation that incorporates egocentric and allocentric frames of reference. Land's deep curiosity about the living world led him to discover visual principles of an unexcelled diversity of creatures.