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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 111-112

Harold Ridley's eye-opening discovery

SRM Medical College Hospital and Research Centre, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, Canada

Date of Web Publication6-Aug-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Tamilarasy Vasanthakumaran
36 Ravenhill Crescent, Markham, Ontario L3S 2T9
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/tjosr.tjosr_44_18

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This paper reviews the historical events, which led up to Harold Ridley's discovery of the intraocular lens.

Keywords: Cataract surgery, Harold Ridley, intraocular lens

How to cite this article:
Vasanthakumaran T. Harold Ridley's eye-opening discovery. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res 2018;56:111-2

How to cite this URL:
Vasanthakumaran T. Harold Ridley's eye-opening discovery. TNOA J Ophthalmic Sci Res [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Aug 9];56:111-2. Available from: http://www.tnoajosr.com/text.asp?2018/56/2/111/238492

In the field of ophthalmology, cataract surgery is of great importance. It is without doubt that the intraocular lens (IOL) is a very commonly used device. Yet, the story behind such a revolution can often be forgotten.

Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley [Figure 1] was born on July 10, 1906, in Kibworth, Leicestershire. Growing up, he went to Charterhouse School and as a child he overcame a stutter.
Figure 1: Dr. Harold Lloyd Ridley

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He had begun his medical training at St. Thomas' Hospital, London, where he completed his basic medical education in 1930. Following this, he worked as a surgeon at both St Thomas' Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, specializing in ophthalmology.

It is the Second World War, which inspired Ridley with the idea of an artificial lens.

After seeing Royal Air Force casualties with eye injuries including Squadron Leader Gordon “Mouse” Cleaver, Ridley observed that when splinters of acrylic plastic from aircraft cockpit canopies became lodged in their eyes, this did not trigger inflammatory rejection as did glass splinters.

He proposed the use of artificial lenses made of Perspex in the eye, to treat cataract.

Ridley brought his idea to life by having the Perspex lens made by a manufacturer and on November 29, 1949, at St Thomas' Hospital; Harold Ridley achieved the first implant of an IOL. Sir Harold and the other opticians were “horrified” by the inappropriate pseudophakic correction. The patient was rendered highly myopic (−14 D). It was noted that the initial lens was then replaced by another lens at a later time.

The first lens was manufactured by the Rayner company of Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, a company which continues to manufacture and market modern, small-incision IOL today.

Hence, Ridley decided to keep the idea secret for a while, between 1947 and 1950. At the time, his surgical research was designated “top secret.” He wanted to research it thoroughly, and thus be able to provide as safe and effective a finished product as possible when he introduced it publicly. He wanted secrecy to keep other interested, but often inexperienced surgeons from using the lens before he had thoroughly tested it. He was afraid that surgeons would, without proper instruction, possibly experience complications that might give the IOL a bad name. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened, and was probably responsible for a delay in the acceptance of the IOL.

With still much improvement needed and strong opposition from the medical community, there were, in fact, IOL-related complications. Some surgeons referred to the IOL as a “time bomb.”[1]

Ridley worked hard to overcome complications and had refined his technique by the late 1960s. It was in 1981 that the IOL was finally approved as “safe and effective” and approved for the use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration.

In 1987, Gordon “Mouse” Cleaver, whose injury in 1940 helped Ridley conceive the idea of using an acrylic IOL, underwent cataract surgery and the implantation of such a lens to restore his sight.

During his civilian hospital services, Ridley had also conducted research on Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), Snake Venom Ophthalmia, and Nutritional amblyopia.

Ridley founded the International Intra-Ocular Implant Club in 1966, a forum to allow free and unhindered exchange of ideas about IOL and implantation surgical techniques.

In 1967, Ridley set up the Ridley Eye Foundation, to raise funds for cataract surgery in developing countries and to treat avoidable blindness. A registered charity under English law, this charitable organization continues to be active in these fields today, notably in the Middle East.

In the last 20 years of his life, he finally received recognition as an inventor who had restored the sight of millions of patients worldwide and was honored with a knighthood.

Millions of patients worldwide have benefited from Sir Ridley's invention and are likely to continue to derive benefit from this device.

Sir Harold Ridley, the inventor of IOL, died at the age of 94, on May 25, 2001, and ophthalmology lost one of its greatest and most influential practitioners.

The invention of the IOL has not been just the addition of one new form of treatment, but rather, Sir Harold's tiny disc-shaped sliver of plastic has changed the world in an eye-opening way.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Apple DJ. Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley: 10 July 1906 — 25 May 2001. Biogr Mem Fellows R Soc 2007;53:285-307.  Back to cited text no. 1


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