Museum of Vision

Dedicated to preserving ophthalmic history

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Internal Ocular Photographs

Fundus photographs

Through the otoscope, laryngoscope and similar instruments, physicians were able to advance their specialties by photographing the internal living functioning body.  However, internal eye reflections caused the ophthalmoscope to be ill suited for this purpose. In the nineteenth century all the fundus atlases contained hand rendered works.

For about 75 years the holy grail of the profession was to clearly and easily photograph the fundus. Hundreds of specialists worked to overcome the problem, which was finally achieved in the early twentieth century by Friedrich Dimmer, who published his photographs in 1921. Dimmer’s fundus camera, developed about 1904, was a complicated research tool and it was not until 1925 that Stockholm’s Johan Nordenson and the Zeiss Camera Company were able to market a commercial device for use by practitioners. Four years later, in 1929, New York’s Arthur Bedell published the first English language fundus atlas and it included stereoscopic views.

In 1959 internal ocular photography took another leap forward.  In that year, David L. Alvis, MD and Harold Novotny, MD performed the first fluorescein angiography on Alvis, using the Zeiss fundus camera with electronic flash.  This development provided a modern direction to ophthalmology.  Real-time evaluation of retinal functions coupled with both photography and cinematography provided new diagnostic and therapeutic tools. The new platform paved the way for laser and other therapies.

Many of the images presented in this concise photographic history of ophthalmology are from the Burns Archive as published in "Ophthalmology: A Photographic History 1845-1945".

  1. Early Photographs
  2. Civil War Era Photographs
  3. Photographs Related to Advances in Medicine
  4. Internal Ocular Photographs
  5. Cameras
  6. Stereographs
  7. Ophthalmic Film
  8. Symposium

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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

Dimmer's camera

Courtsey of the Burns Archive

Fluorescein angiogram


American Academy of Ophthalmology