Museum of Vision

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Graefe and glaucoma

Albrecht von Graefe, MD (1828-1870) and glaucoma

Albrecht von Graefe is often credited as "the founder of modern ophthalmology" for his many contributions to the medical field through teaching, practice, invention and discovery. Among his achievements during his 20 years of committed service to ophthalmology, von Graefe developed a treatment for chronic iridocyclitis with iridectomy, crafted a special knife to perform linear extraction of cataracts and was among the first to use the ophthalmoscope to study and later distinguish acute, chronic, and "simple" classifications of glaucoma.

Von Graefe's father was a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Berlin. Von Grafe lost his parents at the age of twelve. Upon entering university he took classes from his father's successor and graduated from medical school in 1847 before taking his studies aboard. While in Prague he decided to narrow his focus to ophthalmology. Von Graefe then traveled across Europe to Paris, Vienna, and London before returning to Berlin as a fully trained ophthalmologist.

Von Graefe began his career by opening a small clinic that he advertised as free health care for the poor. His business quickly expanded to a three-story eye hospital where he saw thousands of patients, taught lectures, and performed surgeries. Graefe was a prolific author and corresponded often with collaborators and publishers. When the University of Berlin failed to provide von Graefe with enough publication funds he founded his own ophthalmic journal in 1854 and later, in 1857, he established the Deutsche Ophthalmologische Gesellschaft- the first ophthalmic society in the world. Today the society sponsors the Graefe medal.



  1. Helmholtz and the ophthalmoscope
  2. Koller and cocaine
  3. Graefe and glaucoma
  4. Gullstrand and the Nobel Prize
  5. Jackson and medical education
  6. Ridley and cataract
  7. Machemer and the vitreous

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Sectional Navigation

  1. Selections from the Sherman Collection
  2. History of Ophthalmology in the Asia Pacific
  3. Their Eyes to the Sky
  4. Great Insights and Great Thinkers in Ophthalmology
  5. Beyond Ophthalmology, Beyond the Clinic
  6. Extreme Vision: Science Fiction or Truth
  7. Contagion! Epidemics in Ophthalmic History
  8. The Eyes of War
  9. Spectacular Spectacles
  10. To Fool the Eye
  11. Windows to the Soul
  12. Picturing The Eye: Ophthalmic Film and Photography
  13. Collecting Ophthalmology: 30 Years at the Museum

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