The Father of Ophthalmology

George Bartisch, a German physician, was born in 1535 in Königsbrück, a village near Dresden, Germany. He could not afford medical school, so apprenticed at the age of 13 to a barber surgeon in Dresden. This was followed by two additional apprenticeships to an oculist and a lithotomist. He acquired medical experience and became a successful wound surgeon, lithotomist, oculist and teacher of surgical anatomy. Bartisch became well known and eventually was appointed court oculist for Duke Augustus I of Saxony, settling in Dresden.

Bartisch is called the Father of Ophthalmology because he was the earliest person to write an ophthalmologic text-book in the German language and the first in history to totally remove an eye from a living human subject. In 1583 he published Ophthalmodouleia, both the first systematic work on ocular disease and ophthalmic surgery as well as the first ophthalmic atlas with its 92 full page woodcuts, many of which Bartisch drew himself. Some of the illustrations had flaps that could be lifted to provide a dissection layer by layer. They illustrate ocular diseases, surgical methods, and instruments. The explanations of each disease in this work are followed by a discussion of herbal remedies and prescriptions and surgical options for treatment.

The P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, located on the 5th floor of the Briscoe Library owns the first edition of Ophthalmodouleia. More information on George Bartisch may be found in the Treasures of the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library blog.

To schedule a visit to the P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library, contact Lisa Matye Finnie, Special Collections Librarian, at finnie@uthscsa.edu or 210-567-2406.

Sources:

Book review by Mark J. Mannis of Ophthalmodouleia, That is the Service of the Eye, 1996 English translation by Donal Blanchard, MD. American Journal of Ophthalmology 1997, 123:146-147. http://www.history-ophthalmology.com/BartischREVIEW.html

“Georg Bartisch’s Ophthalmodouleia.” The College of Optometrist webpage at http://www.college-optometrists.org/en/college/museyeum/collections/rare_historical_books_collection/Bartisch.cfm

Shastid,, Thomas Hall. George Bartisch,” The American Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Ophthalmology, Volume 2, pp. 888-895. Chicago: Cleveland Press, 1913.

Images:

Images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

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