Museum of Vision

Dedicated to preserving ophthalmic history

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  1. Selections from the Sherman Collection
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  3. Their Eyes to the Sky
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Ridley and cataract

Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley (1906-2001) and cataract

Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley was a House Surgeon and Ophthalmic Consultant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital at Moorfields in 1939 when England declared war on Germany. During the Battle of Britain, as a member of the Emergency Medical Service, Ridley treated Royal Air Force pilots who suffered from eye injuries. Many of these injuries included fragments of airplane canopies which were made of polymethyl methacrylate (aka PMMA or Perspex).

Ridley was stationed in various Allied posts throughout WWII. Only after the war ended did Ridley reflect on his observations of the Perspex fragments, noting that they were relatively inert and well-tolerated by the eye. While operating on a cataract patient, a resident remarked that it was a pity not to be able to replace the removed lens. This comment spurred Dr. Ridley to act and he took his ideas to John Pike of Rayner & Keeler Ltd. to discuss the design of the world's first intraocular lenses.

On November 29, 1949, Ridley performed the first intraocular lens implant surgery. The surgery was a success, but over time it was found that the Ridley lens was too thick and too refractive. The ophthalmic community in Europe and the United States rejected his work, branding it reckless. Over the next 30 years individual physicians all over the world took up the cause and slowly improved IOL design until they gained worldwide acclaim for safety and efficacy. Only nearing the end of his life did Ridley receive the recognition he deserved and was conferred the Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in February 2000, at the age of 93.


  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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