Obituary | Jack Jerzy Kanski (1939- 2019) | written by Dr.Tandava Krishnan

“I wish that we had this book during our residency”. This one sentence stated by our professor during our residency summed up what “Clinical ophthalmology – A systematic capproach” written by Jack (Jacek in Polish) Jerzy  Kanski means to the current generation of ophthalmologists (students, teachers and private practitioners included).

Jack Kanski - The ophthalmologist:

Jack J Kanski was born in 1939 in Warsaw, Poland during the Second World War and left for England along with his mother in the year 19461.He attended Mayfield College in Sussex and The London Hospital Medical College, and then graduated from the Medical University of London. After graduation, he completed an internship at the London Moorfields Eye Hospital. In 1966 he defended his doctoral dissertation in the field of ophthalmology and a year later he became a member of The Royal College of Surgeons. He worked as a surgeon-ophthalmologist at the Prince Charles Eye Unit in King Edward 7th Hospital in Windsor, where he became an honorary consultant. He was a member of the Polish Scientific Society in abroad and the Honorary committee of the Polish scientific journal "Okulistyka" .He had published articles among various journals including British Journal of Ophthalmology , Ophthalmology, Survey of Ophthalmology, American Journal of Ophthalmology and Ocular Clinic.

Jack Kanski – The teacher:

Brad Bowling was the first person to be invited to co author “Clinical ophthalmology _ A systematic approach”. Bowling during his stint as a senior registrar at Windsor, would often find Jack Kanski (then retired) attending the training sessions for students.2 He would discreetly stand in the back rows, listen through the discussion and pose questions to the trainees displaying his wide breadth of knowledge. An experience Bowling describes as daunting.

Jack Kanski – The author.....

In his illustrious career Jack Kanski authored numerous books pertaining to ophthalmology including four in English and eleven in Polish language.“Clinical Ophthalmology – A systematic approach” or “Kanski” as his most famous book was commonly referred to, changed the way ophthalmology books were written.  It is said that Bible is the world’s most printed book. By virtue of being most sought after book in ophthalmology, “Clinical ophthalmology- A systematic approach” would easily qualify to be the “Bible of ophthalmology”.

.... And how his books impacted my life and those of many others!

After watching the movie “Lage raho Munnabhai”, a social worker and a follower of Gandhian principles of morality and non violence had this to say, “We all believed that the practice of path shown by Mahatma Gandhi is a serious business but this movie has shown how Gandhigiri ( the term used in the movie) can be both meaningful and fun”. The ophthalmology books hitherto written tended to be verbose treatises which were more intimidating than welcoming. “Clinical ophthalmology” with a healthy mix of clinical photographs and representative illustrations interspersed with relevant clinical description showed that books could be written in a manner which made reading both informative as well as a joyful experience! .
It is said that picture is worth a thousand words. I once spent three hours reading an article on “Lincoff’s rules” for identifying the breaks in an eye with fresh rhegmatogenous retinal detachment and came out with the feeling of not fully comprehending the rules. A friend suggested I read the article once again, but this time after going through the illustrations in “Kanski”. Needless to say the suggestion did wonders. The sheer simplicity of the illustrations is what makes the book so endearing. Not everybody who teaches is really a teacher. A senior colleague once told me that a teacher is born only when student excels. Similarly not every person who writes a book is an author in the true measure of things. Only when a book conveys the message that it had set out to convey would the author have accomplished his /her task. The incident mentioned above shows the ability of Jack Kanski to not only understand the complexities of a condition but also to assimilate and reproduce it in such simple terms that knowledge is transferred effectively. The sheer popularity of the books written by him is a testimony of what a consummate author he was!
The books though written in simple language never compromised on the information given. All the salient points are systematically covered. Results of the latest clinical trials are also incorporated to make the book truly comprehensive yet to the point. That such a result could be achieved speaks volumes about the ability of the person who executed it. In fact after reading a topic from a specialty text book, I would always make it a point to read it from “ Kanski” to get a better grasp of things as well as to look at it from a slightly different perspective.

Jack Kanski – The chronicler of history :

A statement in the movie “National treasure: Book of Secrets” goes something like this,” Men live for a lifetime but history remembers forever”. Jack Kanski not only made history by writing one of the most popular books in ophthalmology but wrote a lot of books related to history.  The books include, “History of Poland: A concise outline”,” History of German speaking and Nordic nations: A concise outline”,” History of England: a concise outline” and “Giants of European history: A concise outline”. True to his style, the books are richly embellished with maps and descriptive illustrations.



To summarise rarely do we come across people whose works impact the lives of so many. Mark Twain once said,” If you want me to speak for five minutes, I would need to prepare for two weeks”. One can only wonder about the number of hours spent by Jack Kanski to bring out such books. A lifetime, perhaps. His contribution to ophthalmology is invaluable and his departure an irreplaceable loss.

May his soul rest in peace.


Dr. Tandava Krishnan has done his basic medical education at Kasturba medical college, Mangalore from 1998-2004 followed by post graduate training in ophthalmology at Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and Regional institute of ophthalmology (Osmania medical college,Hyderabad) from 2005-2008. He did his Research cum Clinical fellowship in Vitreo-retinal services at Sankara Nethralaya from 2008-2011. He also cleared his ICO advanced course exam in the year 2014. Some of the awards received by him include “Best post graduate competitive paper award at the Andhra Pradesh Ophthalmological society meet at Tirupati 2007”, “Archives of Ophthalmology Online Quiz award for November 2008”, “Swarnalata Punshi Award for the best research fellow for the year 2008-2009 awarded by Vision research foundation (Sankara Nethralaya) and Dr K vengal Rao best paper award at the Andhra Pradesh Ophthalmological society meet at Warangal in the year 2013. He has 19 published papers in PUBMED indexed journals. He also has many articles in non PUBMED indexed journals and has co authored a book titled “The Sankara Nethralaya Atlas of Ophthalmic Ultrasound and Ultrasound Biomicroscopy” second edition and has written a chapter in the book titled "Principles and Practice of Vitreo-retinal surgery". He is currently working at Neoretina eye care institute, Hyderabad as a senior consultant Vitreo-retinal services. He is a member of editorial team of TOS today, the official magazine of the Telangana ophthalmological society. His areas of interest include Diabetic retinopathy, Retinopathy of prematurity and Posterior segment diagnostics.