From Spitfire Canopies to Intraocular Lenses

THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES OF AERIAL COMBAT FROM WORLD WAR II.  VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Sir Nicholas Harold Ridley

Sir Nicholas Harold Ridley

Sir Nicholas Harold Ridley (1906-2001) was an ophthalmic consultant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital at Moorefields during the start of World War II.  In the summer of 1940, Germany launched an aerial attack on the UK that began the Battle of Britain.  Dr. Ridley was part of the Emergency Medical Service and treated Royal Air Force Spitfire and Hurricane pilots with eye injuries from airplane canopy fragments made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).  He noted that these fragments were well-tolerated by the human eye.

After the war, Dr. Ridley began development of intraocular lenses (IOL) made out of PMMA and placed the first IOL in 1949.  This first implant failed.  A subsequent implant in 1950 was successful, and the rest is history.

Plaque_for_Harold_Ridley's_first_intraocular_lens_at_St_Thomas'_Hospital

Medal commemorating a seminal moment in the history of ophthalmology.