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

A Short History of Contact Lenses


Some believe that the sketches made by the artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci about 1508 were intended to indicate contact lenses. He experimented by dissecting eyes and developing his own theories about eyes and how they work. His ideas were at odds with his peers when he correctly concluded that vision is a result of the eye receiving rays of light.  


Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

In 1636 Frenchman René Descartes (1596 – 1650) arrived at the innovative idea of corneal lenses by placing a tube full of water over the cornea to correct a person’s vision. His idea was that this would theoretically lengthen the eye’s axis and therefore increase the size of the image. The practical problem with this idea was that the tube would have been too thick to allow blinking.


Drawing by René Descartes

The first contact lenses to have been worn were invented by the German Ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick (1852 – 1937) around 1888. Fick was one of the first to actually experiment with contact lenses. They were made from heavy brown glass and he tested them on rabbits first, then himself and a group of volunteers. Fick’s lens was large, unwieldy, and could only be worn for a couple of hours at a time.

The others experimenting with contact lenses at the same time were German glassblower F.A. Muller, an optician from Paris called Edouard Kalt, and August Müller (1864 – 1949), a medical student from Germany who corrected his own severe myopia with a more convenient glass-blown scleral contact lens of his own manufacture in 1888. However his lenses were difficult to fit, painful to wear, and the eye had to be anaesthetised before fitting the lens.

The lenses developed by these men were called Glass Scleral lenses as they were designed to cover the entire corneal surface and rest on the white, or sclera, of the eye. They were the standard form of contact lens until the invention of Perspex and Plexiglass in the 1930s. These plastics made it possible to produce lightweight, transparent contact lenses that were easy to manufacture, unbreakable and scratch resistant which quickly made glass contact lenses obsolete. However they were still scleral lenses covering the entire eye and could only be worn for a few hours per day.

The first “corneal” lenses were developed in 1948 by an English optical technician called Kevin Touhy. Apparently in the process of sanding down a plastic lens the lens broke leaving only the portion that covered the cornea intact. So he sanded off the sharp edges and fitted the lens to his own eye. He discovered that the lens still worked and stayed in place even if he blinked. His ‘invention’ was the forerunner of the lens technologies that exist today.


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

What is Glaucoma?


Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged which leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness.

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open angle glaucoma and acute angle closure glaucoma.

The most common form is primary open angle glaucoma. This is often associated with an increase in eye pressure. Eye pressure refers to the tissue pressure within the human eye and is typically caused by the continual drainage and production of aqueous humour.


The aqueous humour is the watery fluid between the cornea and the lens. It maintains the pressure needed to inflate the eye and provides nutrition for the central cornea and lens as they do not have their own blood supply. It circulates from behind the iris into drainage channels between the iris and the cornea. If it cannot drain away correctly, then there can be a fluid build-up leading to a rise in eye pressure and ultimately damage to the optic nerve.

Eye pressure is usually shown as millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). The standard eye pressure should measure less than 21 mm Hg. Ocular hypertension occurs when the eye pressure increases. Vision damage occurs very slowly and the first signs may be the loss of some parts of the visual field, most commonly the peripheral, or side vision.

Acute angle closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage system becomes completely blocked and the fluid pressure rises quickly as more fluid continues to be made. The usual symptoms are sudden and severe eye pain, a red eye and blurred, haloed or decreased vision. The sufferer may feel sick and vomit and it can rapidly lead to blindness in the affected eye if not treated promptly.

Glaucoma can affect young children also; it is called congenital, paediatric or infantile glaucoma. It is usually diagnosed within the first year of life. Symptoms include enlarged eyes, cloudiness of the cornea and sensitivity to light.

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, pills, laser surgery, traditional surgery or a combination of these methods. All are intended to decrease eye pressure and, thereby, protect the optic nerve. The goal of any treatment is to prevent loss of vision, as vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. The good news is that glaucoma can be managed if detected early, and with medical and/or surgical treatment, most people with glaucoma will not lose their sight.


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

Who are the real Three Blind Mice? – part 2



EZiD’s version of the Three Blind Mice

The rhyme as we know it was published in 1842 by James Orchard Halliwell. Some years later (maybe around 1900) an illustrated children’s book by John W. Ivimey with the title The Complete Version of Ye Three Blind Mice was also published, here is the link to the book. And the famous words are:

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice?

This version turns the mice into mischievous characters who seek adventure, eventually being taken in by a farmer whose wife chases them from the house and into a bramble bush, which blinds them. Soon after, their tails are removed by the farmers’ wife using a modern translation of lines from the original verse. The story ends with them using a tonic to grow new tails and recover their eyesight, learning a trade (making wood chips, according to one illustration in Ivimey’s book), buying a house and living happily ever after.

While the words to the rhyme have not been changed since Halliwell’s book was published, the tune has been used and adapted by a number of composers. Even James Bond has had an impact on the rhyme as the soundtrack for the 1962 film Dr. No features “Kingston Calypso”, a calypso version of “Three Blind Mice” with new lyrics that reference the three villainous characters in the film. And the Three Stooges used a jazz interpretation of Three Blind Mice as the theme song for their comedic short films.
The rhyme has even found its way into sport. Basketball and hockey have three referees and the term “Three Blind Mice” is sometimes used as a derogatory expression for their poor performance.


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

A Short History of Bifocals and Multifocals


Multifocal eyeglass lenses contain two or more lens powers to help you see objects at all distances if you lose the ability to naturally change the focus of your eyes due to age. This condition is called Presbyopia and it is caused by the hardening of the lens of the eye. This causes the eye, when looking at close objects, to focus light behind the retina instead of on the retina.


Presbyopia occurs from age 40 and everyone is affected to some degree. Many people complain their arms have ‘become too short’ because they cannot hold reading material in a comfortable position. Other symptoms include eyestrain, blurred vision when looking at one object up close then another object further away, and difficulty reading small print.

Bifocal and multifocal lenses provide clear vision at all distances. Bifocals have two prescriptions in the same lens and multifocal have a range of powers; distance, intermediate and near vision. Your pupil alternates between the powers as your gaze moves up or down. The top part of the lens is for distance vision and the bottom part for near vision.


The invention of bifocals has long been credited to Benjamin Franklin (1705 – 1790) the American politician, statesman and diplomat. He was also an inventor so this may be true or it could be a myth. He was certainly one of the first to wear bifocals. Franklin was involved in the optical business before he left America. He imported spectacles and records of his advertisements in newspapers still exist. From the mid 1750s to the mid 1770s he spent much of his time in London and it was during this time that he was first said to have invented bifocals.

It is likely that London opticians were making ‘split lenses’ also known as ‘divided lenses’ for artists including Benjamin West (1738 – 1820) and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 – 1792). Both these men were in London at the same time as Benjamin Franklin and both of them have also been named as the inventor of bifocals.

There is also one recorded example of bifocal use in the animal world, Thermonectus marmoratus. This is a species of diving beetle also known as the sunburst diving beetle and the spotted diving beetle. These beetles live in ponds and lakes in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. If their water source dries up they fly to a new one. Adult male beetles are about ½” or 1cm in length and females are slightly bigger. They are unique because they have, within their principal eyes, two retinas and two separate focal planes so they can switch their vision from close to distance when they are searching for food.


Thermonectus marmoratus – the Diving Beetle

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

How Do Your Eyes Work?

It may seem a bit odd as your brain produces the image you ‘see’, however your eyes collect all the information the brain uses to create the image. They take pictures of the world around you and send them to your brain, and your brain then works out what your eyes are seeing.


The cornea is the see-through skin covering the front of your eyes. It bends, or refracts, the rays that pass through the round hole of the pupil.

The iris controls the amount of light entering your eye. It is the coloured part of the eye surrounding the front of the pupil.

The rays then pass through the lens, focuses them on the retina.

The retina, which sits at the back of the eye, is a thin layer of tissue containing millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells. These nerve cells are called rods and cones because of their distinct shapes. Rods ‘see’ black and white and cones are responsible for colour vision.

Cones are concentrated in the centre of the retina, in an area called the macula, and function best in relatively bright light. Rods are located outside the macula and extend all the way to the edge of the retina. They provide peripheral vision and allow the eyes to detect motion and help us see in dim light and at night.

Once light meets the retina the process of sight begins. They turn the picture into an electrical message for the brain. The optic nerve sends these messages to a part of the brain called the thalamus via the optic nerve. This area combines information from both your eyes and then sends it to another area of your brain called the visual cortex. This is a specialised part of the brain which processes visual information and is located at the back of the brain. It interprets the electrical signals to obtain information about the object’s colour, shape and depth. Other parts of the brain then put this information together to create the whole picture.


Humans have five senses: the eyes to see, the tongue to taste, the nose to smell, the ears to hear, and the skin to touch. By far the most important organs of sense are our eyes.  We perceive up to 80 per cent of all impressions by means of our sight. And if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, it’s the eyes that best protect us from danger”. Quote from http://www.zeiss.com.au

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



Famous Painters with Low Vision !!



Oscar-Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a founder of French Impressionist painting. The term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise). He was also one of many famous painters who suffered from bad eyesight, this list includes: Paul Cezanne, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, El Greco, August Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh. It is well known that all of these artists where facing a decline in their vision just as they reached their heights of artistic achievement. 

Although Monet was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes in 1912, at the age of 72, his visual problems began much earlier. Soon after 1905 (age 65) he began to experience changes in his perception of colour.

Monet wrote of his growing frustration with his deteriorating vision, describing how he was forced to memorize where the colours were placed on his palette. He also had to rely on reading the labels on the tubes of paint. In 1914 he wrote in his correspondence that colours no longer had the same intensity. “Reds had begun to look muddy,” he wrote. “My painting was getting more and more darkened.”


Monet sought help from many ophthalmologists including the French ophthalmologist Charles Coutela, M.D, who prescribed eye drops, and cataract surgery when Monet was 82.

Coutela also fitted Monet with spectacles designed for cataracts which allowed Monet to read and continue his correspondence.

Monet’s great sensitivity to detail, light and colour was central to his early works. His later works are typified by indistinct coloration, large brush strokes, and an absence of light blues. The sense of atmosphere and light that he was famous for presenting in his earlier works had disappeared.

Monet attributed this to the effects of the cataracts. He wrote, “in the end I was forced to recognize that I was spoiling them [the paintings], that I was no longer capable of doing anything good. So I destroyed several of my panels. Now I’m almost blind and I’m having to abandon work altogether. It’s hard but that’s the way it is: a sad end despite my good health!” – letter to Marc Elder, May 8, 1922, Giverny.

John Owensjohn@ezidlabels.com   www.ezidlabels.com