A brief history of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology

The Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology (NLO) was established in Walton Street with a gift from Lord Nuffield in 1942. This location, next to the Oxford Eye Hospital (OEH) founded by Robert Doyne in 1886, led the way in bringing together clinical and non-clinical researchers to understand the mechanistic basis of eye disease for the development of new evidence-based treatments. Indeed, Doyne is known by ophthalmologists worldwide through his description of one of the first cases of a genetic retinal disease, Doyne’s Dominant Drusen, and ocular genetics is an area in which the NLO retains particular strengths to this day.

Robert Doyne

Robert Doyne, Founder of the Oxford Congress, was born in 1857 and came to Oxford in 1886. Having discovered the need for ophthalmic specialization and integrated facilities in the Oxford area, Doyne established an independent Eye Hospital and also commenced what was to become a constant flow of original medical papers and contributions. The specialized work started as an Eye Dispensary in a builder's yard. In spite of many difficulties and with the help of influential friends Doyne founded the Oxford Eye Hospital in 1886 by moving the dispensary to 21-22 Wellington Square (now the site of the University Chest). Almost exactly 100 years ago, in 1894 the Eye Hospital Committee obtained a lease from the County Hospital and Ophthalmology came to its present site in Walton Street, in the fever block of the Radcliffe Infirmary.

In 1902 Doyne was made an honorary M.A. of the University of Oxford and was appointed Senior Surgeon to the Oxford Eye Hospital, Consulting Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary, Robert Doyne 2and to the new post of Reader in Ophthalmology to the University - a chair instituted by the munificence of Mrs. Margaret Ogilvie - which he was to hold for 11 years. He resigned from the Oxford Eye Hospital in 1912, after 25 years' continuous service. Although after retirement Doyne moved to London, he died in Oxford following a stroke in 1916.

Doyne presided the section of Ophthalmology of the B.M.A. meeting which was held in Oxford in 1904. This meeting was such a success that he was asked to arrange a similar meeting the next year and this was repeated annually. As a result of this the Oxford Congress was founded in 1909 which is still an important annual event.

Doyne wrote over 87 papers and made a similar number of presentations in his clinical lifetime. He remains internationally recognised through the inherited retinal condition Doyne's Dominant Drusen. At the Eye Hospital there is a ward, together with a plaque and bust, in his memory as well as the collection of his hospital notes and instruments.

 

Dame Ida Mann

After qualifying in medicine, at a time when few women did, Ida Mann blazed a trail for feminism. Her DSc from London University was published in 1928 as the first definitive book in this country on The Development of the Human Eye, and along with Congenital Defects of the Eye in 1937 became a standard text.

Her wide interests included comparative anatomy at London Zoo. She brought news of the Gullstrand slit lamp from Vogt to London. With Joseph Dallos, whom she persuaded to leaveIda Mann 2 Budapest before the First World War, she established the first contact lens clinic in London. During the war she studied mustard gas keratitis, thyroid eye disease, mepacrine toxicity and was a guinea pig for Professor Florey and penicillin. Medal lectures included the Doyne in 1928, the Harrison Gale in 1929, the Nettleship in 1932 and the Montgomery in 1935.

After an appointment as Assistant Surgeon to the Central London Hospital (later to become the Institute of Ophthalmology) she became the first female Honorary Consultant to the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital (Moorfields).

The Developement of the Human Eye

She was then chosen as the Margaret Ogilvie's Reader in Ophthalmology at the University of Oxford. Thereafter a personal chair was created making her the first woman ever to hold the title of Professor at Oxford (the first in Britain). She subsequently raised £250,000 to build a new eye hospital, but this never came to fruition due to Goverment cutbacks during the post war era. Ida went on sabattical and took a long-overdue holiday to Australia in 1949. Indeed she liked Australia so much that she stayed, carrying out ground-breaking work with the aborigines and cancer research. She died at her desk in 1984. The dedication in a leading ophthalmology journal reads : "No living doctor has dominated international ophthalmology as has Ida Mann, whose colleagues throughout the world have been inspired by her remarkable work".

In recognition of her many contributions to research, teaching, and clinical practice, she was awarded the C.B.E. (1950) and made D.B.E. (1980), as well as receiving honorary degrees, prizes and medals from many countries.

 

Antoinette Pirie

Antoinette Pirie"Tony" Pirie was remarkable in sustaining two careers, one as a biochemist and the other as an educator, working on malnutrition. Both careers were committed to the prevention of blinding eye disease.

At the outbreak of war she was seconded to work with Ida Mann on the responses of the eye to war gases. After the war she joined Ida Mann as a research assistant at the newly-built Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology, where they were engaged in the problems of ocular development, metabolism and toxicology. In 1946 they wrote "The Science of Seeing" partly to refute Aldous Huxley's 'pernicious" book The Art of Seeing .

In 1947 Tony Pirie became Margaret Ogilvie's reader in ophthalmology and was elected to a professorial fellowship at Somerville College. This was the beginning of a period of exciting and innovative research that covered the broad fields of Ophthalmic Biochemistry. Her later research was directed almost exclusively to the lens and cataract. She made fundamental discoveries in the areas of lens metabolism, enzymes and lens proteins.

She was the first to characterise vitreous collagen. Many of her studies have concerned themselves with the characterisation of lens crystallins and the changes in crystallins occurring in cataract. She was fascinated by vitamins and their importance in eye tissues. She was one of the leaders actively involved in seeking ways to prevent and alleviate vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.

 

Anthony J Bron

Prof. A.J.BronProf. Bron is a distinguished British ophthalmic researcher whose early training was in physiology and medicine at Guy's Hospital. He completed an ophthalmic research fellowship at the Wilmer Institute between 1964 and 1965. His residency training was done at Moorfields Eye Hospital (London, England, U.K.) from 1966 through 1969.

Professor Bron was Head of the Department of Ophthalmology in Oxford with interest inProf. A.J.Bron Retirement external eye disease, dry eye, ocular infection, corneal dystrophies, and corneal healing, until September 2003. He had a unique ability to make novel clinical observations, to evaluate the important features experimentally, and to distil the critical components into a comprehensive schema that facilitates understanding of the relevant biologic and clinical implications.

At various times he has served as President of the Ophthalmic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Chairman of the AER, Vice-President of JERMOV and President of EVER. He has authored over 200 publications and serves on the Editorial Board of six peer-reviewed journals, including Cornea. He has lectured extensively in the U.K. and abroad. He was recipient of the Castroviejo Medal in 1992 and of the Doyne Medal in 1996. He is co-author of Wolff's Anatomy of the Eye and Orbit, Ocular infection and lens Disorders.