Moments in Surgical History |

Ophthalmologic Surgery

Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DrPH
Arch Surg. 2000;135(11):1371. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.11.1371.
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OPHTHALMOLOGY enjoys the longest history of all surgical specialties in the United States, although prior to the mid 19th century, there were, strictly speaking, no true American ophthalmologists. Scattered throughout the country, however, were physicians who devoted an unusually large part of their practice to diseases of the eye. Yet, the very fact that in 1805, the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland adopted a resolution calling for the granting of "special licenses to dentists and oculists to practice in their respective branches, subjecting them to an examination only on the branches they possess" suggest that during this era "oculists" represented an already recognized branch of medicine.

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Because of its poor arrangement and lack of conciseness, John Mason Gibson's Condensation of Matter Upon the Anatomy, Surgical Operations and Treatment of Diseases of the Eye (1832) had little effect on the overall direction of American ophthalmology. Still, it remains the country's first fully illustrated ophthalmological textbook, and its hand-colored plates provide it with a striking appearance.

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