Famous Ophthalmologists

Albrecht von Graefe (1828 – 1870)

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Albrecht von Graefe  has become known as the father of modern ophthalmology.


Albrecht’s father, Carl Ferdinand von Graefe, was a famous German surgeon and a general in the Prussian army. Young von Graefe became an orphan at age 12, however, as a gifted student, he was able to follow in his father’s footsteps by enrolling in medical school at the University of Berlin in 1843 when he was 15. He graduated four years later and then spent most of the next three years travelling across Europe studying and working with some of the leading ophthalmologists of that period.

His experiences allowed von Graefe to return to Berlin where he opened his first clinic in November, 1850. His talent underpinned the rapid growth of this clinic and in the first year he treated nearly 2,000 patients. He treated poor patients for free.

In the search for better ways to diagnose and treat his patients von Graefe designed new instruments including one of the first devices used to measure intraocular pressure. As his skills and knowledge grew he moved to larger clinic and was soon treating over 10,000 patients a year.

In January 1854, at the age of 26, von Graefe published the first issue of his ophthalmologic journal Archiv fur Ophthalmologie. Remarkably this journal is still published today under the title Graefe’s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology. Von Graefe went onto to contribute to other journals, and in 1857 he helped established the Deutsche Ophthalmologische Gesellschaft which was the world’s first ophthalmic society. Today the society sponsors the Graefe medal for achievements in the field of ophthalmology

Recognition of von Graefe’s achievements was also given by the hundreds of students who he trained. In 1857 von Graefe reached the peak of his career when he reported a cure for glaucoma using iridectomy which is a procedure to remove part of the iris.

In 1861 he became engaged to Anna, Countess Knuth. They married in 1862 and went on to have five children. Von Graefe also contracted acute tuberculous pleurisy in 1861. This did not slow him down and his work load continued to grow. Eventually the disease spread to his lungs and throat but he could continue to work by using morphine to control the pain. However, he eventually succumbed to the disease and died on July 20, 1870 at the age of 42, his wife died two years later at the age of 30.


His image lives on in a statue that was erected by the Berlin Medical Society in 1882 in front of the Charité Hospital, and a Graefe Museum in the Heidelberg eye clinic.

by John Owens – john@ezidlabels.comwww.ezidlabels.com


Famous Ophthalmologists – Professor Fred Hollows


Professor Frederick Cossom “Fred” Hollows was a New Zealand and Australian ophthalmologist who is well known for providing quality eye care to those in need throughout the world. His work has been instrumental in advancing the number of people who are now able to receive high quality eye care and in the process he has helped over one million people regain their site.

Fred was born on April 9, 1929 in Dunedin, New Zealand. After working over one summer in a mental hospital he realised he wanted to help people in another way. This lead to him getting his BA degree at the Victoria University of Wellington and his medical degree from the Otago Medical School. Fred’s first job was assisting eye surgeons at New Zealand’s Auckland and Tauranga hospitals where he gained experience in the latest medical technology and was eventually able to perform surgery.

In 1961 he moved to the England to begin post-graduate training in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He completed his fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons and began working as an ophthalmology registrar in Wales. In 1965, he moved to Australia to become the Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales.

In 1968 he began to focus on the large numbers of Australian Aborigines with eye diseases. Fred’s well documented efforts, dedication and persistence over many years lead to a substantial improvement in Aboriginal eye health.

During the 1980s and 1990s Fred continued his work via the poor communities in Nepal, Eritrea and Vietnam. He set up training programs so local technicians could perform the surgery, and he organised lens laboratories in each country to manufacture lenses economically.


Fred’s goal was to provide high quality eye care for those people who could not easily access it, and in 1992 he helped establish the Fred Hollows Foundation to meet this goal. Fred’s lifelong work continues today through the many clinics he established for the underprivileged.

His efforts were rewarded in 1990 when he was named the ‘Australian of the Year’. After fighting a long battle with cancer Professor Fred Hollows passed away on the 10th of February 1993.

By John Owens – john@ezidlabels.com   www.ezidlabels.com

Famous Ophthalmologists – Arthur Conan Doyle

Arguably the most famous ophthalmologist is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). He is the creative genius behind the popular fictional character Sherlock Holmes. From 1876 – 1881 Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School in Scotland. While studying he also started writing short stories. In 1885 he completed another advanced Scottish medical degree. After qualifying to perform eye tests and prescribe glasses at the Portsmouth Eye Hospital Doyle attempted to studied ophthalmology in Vienna in 1891. This did not go well and within three months he had returned to London where he opened a small office.

However according to his biography he did not see any patients and his efforts as an ophthalmologist were a failure. While waiting for patients he began to write his now famous stories which would change his life forever.


Medical plots and characters with medical qualification feature in many of Doyle’s stories. Doctor Watson was one of over 35 physicians Doyle included in his works. Ophthalmology features in two of the Sherlock Holmes stories and several of his non-Sherlock Holmes books. Doyle volunteered his medical services at Bloemfontein during the Boer War and in 1902 was knighted for his efforts.

Dr Joseph Bell, one of Doyle’s lecturers at Edinburgh Medical School, was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Dr Bell emphasized the importance of close observation in making a medical diagnosis. To demonstrate this during lectures he would pick out a someone he did not know and, by studying the person carefully, Bell would work out his occupation and some of the things he had done that day. Accordingly Dr Bell was considered to be a pioneer in forensic science at a time when science was not yet widely used in criminal investigations.

Doyle wrote over 60 Sherlock Holmes mystery stories, plus poetry, works of fantasy, historical novels and science fiction. He also wrote a series of novels on another fictional character he created named Professor Challenger.

Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Charles Altamont Doyle and Mary Foley. His family were wealthy and well respected but his father was a heavy drinker so Doyle as supported by other family members. His mother was a great reader and was responsible for developing Doyle’s imagination when he was a child with the great stories she read to him.

In 1885, Doyle married Louisa Hawkins. Unfortunately she contracted tuberculosis and died in 1906. They had two children.
He then married Jean Elizabeth Leckie in 1907 and had another three children. He played football, cricket and golf. Arthur Conan Doyle died at the age of 71 in 1930 as a result of a heart attack.

John Owens – November 2016 john@ezidlabels.com   www.ezidlabels.com