Brief History of Ophthalmology

It was just a mere 200 to 300 years ago, in the 1700s to the early 1800s, when modern medical treatment of disease began to emerge from a time of barbaric practices. Real science was taking over, in place old world cures that never worked. During these formative years in Europe, some physicians began to specialize in the care of the eyes, calling themselves “oculists” and sometimes being laughed out of town as some kind of quack.

During this time many wars were being fought throughout Europe and Northern Africa and soldiers were diagnosed with many blinding conditions. One such condition was what they referred to as Egyptian Ophthalmia (what we call trachoma or granular conjunctivitis today). Hundreds to possibly thousands of men were losing their vision and hospitals did not know what to do with them. At one point asylums for the blind were used to house these men throughout Europe.

Over time these oculists began to develop treatments for the various conditions and new ways of looking at a person’s eyes were developed with strong magnifying lenses. The oculist was no longer considered a quack and became a respected member of the medical community, giving birth to the professions we know today as Ophthalmology and Optometry.

Did you know that President & Genius Benjamin Franklin was the inventor of the modern Bifocal Glasses!

Today Ambulatory(or Outpatient) Eye Surgery Centers are found in every city and the there are medications for virtually any eye condition and many procedures to help the prevention of blindness and maintennance of eye health!

Written by Bart W., Technician with Milwaukee Eye Care