Hindsight, 1979: Dr. Jose I. Barraquer
Medical and Surgical Disease of the Cornea was the 1979 symposium topic of choice, and amongst our speakers was Dr. Jose Barraquer, a pioneer in refractive surgery.
Dr. Barraquer was born in Spain in 1916 to a family of ophthalmologists, including his father, Dr. Ignacio Barraquer, who helped to advance cataract surgery with the invention of several important surgical instruments. Indeed, his training began with his father before he went on to complete his degree in medicine and surgery at the University of Barcelona and obtain his doctorate from the University of Madrid.
In 1949 Dr. Barraquer introduced the term refractive surgery into the ophthalmic lexicon, and began to make his name as a researcher. After moving to Bogota, Columbia in 1954, he published a method for grafting grooves in frozen corneas and in 1963 he finalized his work in keratoplasty and founded the Barraquer Institute of America. Said his brother, Dr. Joaquin Barraquer:
The cornea has a curvature that provides a very important part of the eye dioptric power. Intervention is provided by my brother to resection of a piece of the cornea, freezing, turning to change its curvature and thus its dioptric power, thawed and sutured back into the bed…It’s a great idea to which Jose Ignacio Barraquer dedicated his life.
Jose, an inventor like his father and a fierce advocate for improving surgical technology, developed over forty instruments during his career, including improved suture material, the cryolathe and the microkeratome, and keratomileusis and keratophakia, which laid the groundwork for LASIK and other modern lamellar procedures.
Dr. Barraquer had at least 256 published works, including his books Refractive Queroplastia, Queratomileusis y Queratofaquia, and Refractive Surgery of the Cornea. He participated in numerous conferences, lectures, and presentations around the world, and was given the award of honor of the Society of Cryo-Ophthalmology of the United States and the Extraordinary Price of the Society of Cryo-Biology in 1968. In 1972 he received the Award of the Society of Contemporary Ophthalmology, and three years later was awarded the same award for his contribution to education in ophthalmology.
During his long career he was honored many more times by the international ophthalmic community, and he continued his research and private practice in Bogota, Columbia up until his death in 1998.