Antique Collection of Ophthalmic Equipment and Books

Ophthalmic Equipment by Herman von Helmholtz

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Hermann Von Helmholtz discovered the ophthalmoscope one hundred fifty years ago and during this anniversary, the antique book and ophthalmic equipment collection is expected to be assembled at the Royal College of Ophthalmologists located in London. It was till the year 1851 that ophthalmologists found it hard to treat various eye conditions like loss of vision or dimness. After the discovery of ophthalmoscope things began to change and explanations for various eye disorders were put forth by men like William Bowman, Edward Jaeger and Albert Von Graefe. One of the earliest models of ophthalmoscope from Helmholtz is placed in Oxford room along with its published explaining. These valuable and antique items are a part of the seventy ophthalmoscopes from the nineteenth century.

These types of ophthalmic equipment required some illumination source so that light can be focused into the eye along with some lens arrangement for correction of the focus of the fundus image. The flickering candle was used by Helmholtz as the main source of illumination. In the year 1885, Henry Juler was the first person to use an incandescent bulb. There were varieties of mirrors used by the pioneers of ophthalmic equipment ranging from polished concave steel to coated plano glass. Adolf Coccius was the first person to introduce the concave mirror built of plated glass. Out of the different instruments at display, some are found to have focal length of different magnitudes. The ophthalmoscope of Edward Jaeger consisted of two different mirrors.

John Couper brought some changes to the position of the mirror by angling it to a certain extent. It was this idea that allowed the observation of the fundus in a perpendicular position without any sort of distortion. The ophthalmic equipment from Couper is present at the collection and definitely one of the most anticipated items on display. The rectangular mirror from Loring with its vertical sides cut off allowed tilting of the mirror either to the left or to the right. The idea from Loring has been put to use in several ophthalmoscope designs of present day.

The ophthalmic equipment from Lindsay Johnson solved the problem of interchanging mirrors of different focal length as the equipment had two mirrors mounted permanently on it. Some of the early practitioners like de Wecker and Couper used the ophthalmoscope even for refraction. Apart from the ophthalmoscopes there are several other equipments on display at the collection. The trial lens by Flohr and Paetz recovered from some German hospital attic are definitely worth a look. Along with that surgical instruments dating back to the nineteenth century are also present in the collection. Some of the instruments on display include keratomes, cataract knives with ivory handles as well as needles. Many of these equipments are kept in wooden boxes with beautiful designs and brass fittings. One can even find the very samples of soft contact lenses, a truly remarkable invention from Otto Wichterle. Model eyes used for teaching students are kept in the collection with beautifully painted fundi.

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