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On the 200th anniversary of the Madras Eye Infirmary, the first ophthalmic hospital in Asia


The first eye hospital, not only in India but in the whole of Asia as well, and the second oldest in the world, known as ‘Madras Eye Infirmary’ (MEI) as a public facility was established in Madras city (now Chennai) in 1819 to address the ophthalmic problems of residents of the city and the neighbourhood. Robert Richardson was its first superintendent. Whereas the Madras General Hospital, in the early days of its establishment serviced only the British army personnel and civilians, the MEI, right from inception, serviced Indians for reasons unknown. This facility moved around the town during its early days, but settled in its current location in Marshalls Road (now Rukmini Lakşmipati Sãlai), Egmore (Ézhumbûr) in 1886. The MEI changed names over time: ‘Government Ophthalmic Hospital’ (GOH, in 1886), and presently the ‘Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital’. Local people fondly refer to it as the Ézhumbûr Kaṇ Ãspatiri. Robert Elliot (1904–1913), Henry Kirkpatrick (1914–1920), Robert Wright (1920–1938), K. Koman Nayar (1940–1945) and R. E. S. Muthayya (1947–1956) are significant names in the annals of GOH. Elliott is remembered by ophthalmic surgeons throughout the world for his pioneering surgical-management technique of glaucoma, which involved a novel improvement made over the one proposed by Pierre Félix Lagrange of Bordeaux in 1907. This note recounts the key milestones and scientific landmarks in the pages of the history of this public facility, while referring to the science promoted by the medical men who led this hospital at various times until 1956 and placed it on the world map of medicine.


history, Madras Eye Infirmary, Government Ophthalmic Hospital (GOH), Madra city (Chennai)

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