It is from Crash Course World History. It is at 6 minute and 21 second. Here is the context:

Since looking at the landscape was no longer the same experience, and according to the medical journal The Lancet, "The rapidity and variety of the impressions necessarily fatigue both the eye and the brain", many people turned to reading books on railroads.

I have checked all the meanings of the word impression and I am still struggling to understand what it means there.

  • 1
    They are sensory impressions. Look up impression in the context of perceptions and the sensory apparatus. The underlying metaphor often used when describing the phenomenon of sensation is that of something like soft wax. The world makes an impression on our senses. This figurative expression predates modern science and has become greatly weakened with centuries of use, so that now a sensory impression simply refers to a sense's registering of a stimulus.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 13:04
  • Would it mean the same if were to say: The rapidity and veriety of the information obsorbed through vision...? Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:00
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    @DmytroO'Hope - Yes, it would mean the same thing (in my opinion) but impressions is more idiomatic and less wordy than "the information absorbed through vision".
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:08
  • 1
    Well, then you're making vision a sponge rather than a piece of wax, which by implication makes light something wet instead of something hard or capable of carrying force :) A sponge is not the standard "Western civilization" metaphor for sensation. We tend to say that light strikes the retina rather than the retina absorbs light
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 14:29
  • "The rapidity and variety of the impressions necessarily fatigue both the eye and brain" can be more conversationally rendered as "things go by so fast that they tire out both the eye and the brain."
    – BobRodes
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


Impressions, here, refers to the perceptions, the sensory information that is gained by looking out of the window on the train. Rather than, as on pre-rail modes of travel, seeing largely the same thing for extended periods of time, the rail passenger would see something changing much more rapidly. They would have to process more, and it would not be as peaceful as it had been to look out of a horse-drawn coach at the landscape passing by.

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