Albrecht Von Graefe (1828-1870) and His Contributions to the Development of Ophthalmology

Int Ophthalmol. 2020 Apr;40(4):1029-1033. doi: 10.1007/s10792-019-01253-y. Epub 2020 Jan 7.


Purpose: The aim of this article is to show Albrecht von Graefe's contributions to the development of ophthalmology on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death. He is regarded as the greatest ophthalmologist of the 19th century. Modern and scientific ophthalmology owes its beginning to him.

Methods: Extensive literature research is made and contacts with institutions for history of medicine as well as medico-historians in the field of ophthalmology.

Results: His contributions to ophthalmology were multiple. Von Graefe was the first to introduce iridectomy in acute glaucoma treatment, initiated visual field testing and developed the first tonometer. He made the first classification of glaucoma. Von Graefe was the ophthalmologist who created a special knife for cataract surgery. He was also the first to use Helmholtz' ophthalmoscope. He founded the first ophthalmological society in the world and the second ophthalmology journal which has been published continously up to now. In 1852 he founded famous private eye clinic in Berlin, where he treated many eye patients and educated many prominent ophthalmologists. At the age of 29 he became associate professor of ophthalmology, the first with such a title in Germany.

Conclusion: Albrecht von Graefe was founder of modern ophthalmology and separated it from surgery. Graefe's contacts, correspondency and meetings at ophthalmological congresses with his teachers, assistants, collegaues also contributed to international co-operation and internationalization in ophthalmology. Although Albrecht von Graefe died before 150 years, he still provokes great admiration and respect in the world of ophthalmology.

Keywords: Albrecht von Graefe; Cataract surgery; Glaucoma; Iridectomy; Ophthalmology.

Publication types

  • Review