1. A theoretical and experimental analysis of the relationship of the corneal stromal ultrastructure with light transmission has been made in an attempt to resolve recent contradictory explanations of corneal transparency. 2. The spatial distribution of collagen fibrils in electronmicrographs of rabbit corneal stroma has been analysed in terms of a radial distribution function. The results indicate the presence of local order extending to at least 200 nm from individual fibrils. 3. The observed spatial distribution of the collagen fibrils was used as a basis to compare the theoretically derived and the experimentally determined values of light transmission. It has been found that the transparency of the normal cornea may be explained by the quasi‐random structure revealed by the electronmicroscope. 4. Histograms of the collagen fibril diameter in normal rabbit corneal stroma revealed the range to be 12·5–32·5 nm and the mean value to be approximately 20 ± 1·5 nm. Corneal swelling did not change the collagen fibril diameter significantly. 5. It is concluded that the size and distribution of collagen fibrils revealed in electronmicrographs are consistent with the observed transparency of normal stromas. 6. A marked heterogeneity in the spatial distribution of collagen fibrils was found in the swollen cornea. This is qualitatively consistent with the observed decrease in transparency.
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