Hindsight, 1968: Doctor Gerd Meyer-Schwickerath

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In 1968 we focused on the retina in our symposium titled Retina and Retinal Surgery, and one of our esteemed lecturers was Doctor Gerd Meyer-Schwickerath, a German innovator in the study of retinal treatments.

In 1945, just after receiving his medical degree, Dr. Meyer-Schwickerath conceived of the idea of therapeutic photo-coagulation.  A recent solar eclipse had damaged the retinas of those who’d viewed it, and one sleepless night Dr. Meyer-Schwickerath wondered if it would be possible to treat eye disease by using photo-coagulation to create burns in the retina where you wouldn’t be aware of them in order to seal holes in the retina to prevent detachment.

“His introduction of photocoagulation opened the field to the modern management of so many of the severe blinding disorders and, indeed, laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of the laser as an instrument for photocoagulation,” — Arnall Patz, MD, director emeritus and distinguished service professor, Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Upon his death in 1992, Dr. Meyer-Schwickerath left the field of ophthalmology with an abundance of contributions, having invented several other instruments and procedures that are still used today, including being the first to use electronic flash fundus photography, the basis for fluorescein angiography.  In 2002, he was inducted into the ophthalmology hall of fame.

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