Great Minds Who Changed the Ophthalmology

Jan Evangelista Purkinje: (1787-1869)


Purkinje is a known to all ophthalmologists for Purkinje's cells, Purkinje's images. Jan Evangelista Purkinje was a versatile scholar with wide-ranging interests and an exceptional capacity for innovative thinking. He used the name “Purkinje” until 1850, from whence he used the correct spelling, Pyrkyně. We use Purkinje for the eponyms because that is the more common. Purkinje was a Czech nationalist and had a major influence on Czech cultural life in the middle of the 19th century. He was a friend of the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who wrote about Purkinje: “and should you fail to understand, let Purkyně give you a hand!” Purkinje published a Czech translation of Friedrich Schiller's poems, and translated works of William Shakespeare into Czech.
Purkinje created the world’s first department of physiology at the University of Breslau, Prussia in 1839 and the first official physiological laboratory, known as the Physiological Institute, in 1842.  Purkinje used to believe that that experiments in one's own body ("in corpore nobili") gave more practical results than those in animal experiment ("in corpore vili") or in fatally ill patients. And when he was a medical student, Purkinje used to investigate the physiology of sight by experimenting on himself with a variety of drugs, including Belladonna. His interest in the physiology of light led him to make animated cartoons, and thus he became one of the earliest motion picture pioneers.
He is best known for his discovery of Purkinje cells, large nerve cells with many branching extensions found in the cortex of the cerebral cortex. He is also known for his discovery of Purkinje fibers, the fibrous tissue that conducts the pacemaker stimulus along the inside walls of the ventricles to all parts of the heart. It was Purkinje, who introduced the scientific terms plasma. An early user of the improved compound microscope, he discovered the sweat glands of the skin, germinal vesicles. He recognized fingerprints as a means of identification and noted the protein-digesting power of pancreatic extracts. He died on July 25 of 1868.

Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle (1809 -1885)

Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle, who is known to us for Henle’s layer, Hassle-Henle bodies, loop of Henle, was a German anatomist and pathologist. He was a man of wide interests, equally at home with the arts as with science. He was a fine musician, playing the violin, viola and violin cello. In his young age, Henle thought of becoming a minister. His political ideas were liberal and nationalistic. But in1835 Henle was arrested and detained in Berlin & was released from confinement after four weeks. 
He wrote Handbuch der rationellen Pathologie (Handbook of Rational Pathology), Allgemeine Anatomie (General Anatomy), which is the first systematic work on histology.. Henle published the first descriptions of the structure and distribution of human epithelial tissue and of the fine structures of the eye and brain. Along with Gabriel Valentin, Henle was among the first authors to use the term “cell”. 
During his stay in Zurich he fell in love with Elise Egloff, who worked as a governess in the house of his friend. He set her up in her own lodgings and later arranged for his sister to educate her and give her social polish. They were married in March 1846. One son and one daughter resulted from this union, which ended barely two years later with his wife’s death from tuberculosis. In August 1849, Henle married Marie Richter, the daughter of a Prussian officer; they had four daughters and one son. Henle was very sociable. He loved witty conversations, encouraged home musicals and evening gatherings for reading, and was happy to open his house for concerts. He died of renal and spinal sarcoma on13th May in 1885. 

Hermann von Helmholtz (1821- 1894)

Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz was a German physician and physicist. In the words of the 1911 Britannica, "his life from first to last was one of devotion to science, and he must be accounted, on intellectual grounds, as one of the foremost men of the 19th century."
As a young man, Helmholtz was interested in natural science especially mathematics, but his father wanted him to study medicine because there was financial support for medical students.
His investigations occupied almost the whole field of science, including physiology, physiological optics, physiological acoustics, chemistry, mathematics, electricity and magnetism, meteorology and theoretical mechanics. In physiology and physiological psychology, he is known for his mathematics of the eye, theories of vision, ideas on the visual perception of space, color vision research, and on the sensation of tone, perception of sound, and empiricism. In physics, he is known for his theories on the conservation of force, work in electrodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, and on a mechanical foundation of thermodynamics. As a philosopher, he his known for his philosophy of science, ideas on the relation between the laws of perception and the laws of nature, the science of aesthetics, and ideas on the civilizing power of science.Albert Einstein once said “I admire the original, free mind of Helmholtz”
Helmholtz revolutionized the ophthalmology with the invention of the ophthalmoscope.It arose from an attempt in 1850, to demonstrate to his class the nature of the glow of reflected light sometimes seen in the eyes of animals such as the cat. Helmholtz first disclosed about his discovery to his father. In a letter to his father in 17th December,1950 he wrote “I have make a discovery during my lectures on the Physiology of the Sense-organs, which may be of the utmost importance in ophthalmology”. When the famous ophthalmologist, A. von Gräfe, first observed the fundus of the living human eye, with its optic disc and blood-vessels, his face flushed with excitement, and he shouted, "Helmholtz has unfolded to us a new world!"

Douglas Moray Cooper Lamb Argyll Robertson (1837-1909)

Argyll Robertson was a scottish ophthalmologist described the pupil found in tabes dorsalis. He was the disciples of the famous ophthalmologist of Albrecht von Graefe.

Calabar bean (Physostigma venenosum) is the seed of a leguminouis plant found in Calabar, in the eastern region of Nigeria. In those days, a solution of the seed extract was used by the natives for judicial execution – if the man vomited it back then he was considered innocent. Argyll Robertson instilled an extract of calabar bean into his own eye and made the deduction that physostigmine contracts the pupil. He predicted it would become “an agent that will soon rank as one of the most valuable in the ophthalmic pharmacopoeia”. The same year, his teacher von Graefe utilized its miotic effect to facilitate iridectomy.
Argyll Robertson was a man of broad medical interests, always emphasizing the role of ophthalmology in a wider medical context. But he left no large number of medical publications; according to his obituary he "preferred the tongue to the pen as a medium". In 1908, he made a journey to India. He caught a cold in Gondal near Bombay, and died there.