A Curious Affliction Among WWII Pilots Led to This Medical Discovery

Illustration for article titled A Curious Affliction Among WWII Pilots Led to This Medical Discovery

Harold Ridley was an ophthalmologist treating the eye injuries of British fighter pilots during World War II, when he noticed an odd similarity between those injuries. And what he learned when he looked closer changed how we treat cataracts today.

io9’s comment of the day comes from Jstephenhudginsmd, who shared this little bit of history behind the intraocular lens implant, and just what a very specific subset of injuries to fighter pilots during World War II had to do with its creation:

Sir Harold Ridley’s invention of the intraocular lens implant (for cataract surgery) would make a great movie. From ww2 Spitfire pilots with eye injuries, he observed that bits of the Perspex material from which the canopies were made were tolerated inside the eye with no ill effects, unless there was early infection. He had the idea of using lenses made of this material inside the eye. After some early success (and some early failure) he was instructed to cease any more research in this area by his superiors at the National Health Service. The idea and Ridley’s contribution were lost for many years until an article in an obscure journal was seen by others interested in the problem. Eventually he received his due and was eventually knighted.


Image: Supermarine spitfire planes flying in formation

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Caption should read “Supermarine Spitfire planes flying in formation.” Supermarine was the manufacturer, Spitfire is a proper noun and should be capitalized.