Descemet, Munson, Bowman, and more


I wish I could discover something and name it after me. Now, I have Swartz-Matsuo glaucoma, but I did not name it. In case you weren’t aware (I was not), an eponym is a word derived from the name of a person. A medical eponym is therefore any word related to medicine whose name is derived from a person.

As we all remember well from every test we took in optometry school, we have a lot of eponyms. But we know where they are located or what they do—not who they are named after. Let’s see who we have.

Let’s start with a famous OD from our own time, Donald Korb, OD, FAAO, who is responsible for the only gas perm fit I am comfortable using. He is a clinical professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Optometry, as well as a trustee at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston. He is responsible for 30 U.S. patents and cofounded multiple companies for contact lens and dry eye research, including Corneal Sciences, Inc.; Ocular Research of Boston, which developed Soothe XP (now marketed by Bausch + Lomb); and TearScience, the home of Lipiflow.1 Yes, I wanted to start with a heavy hitter.

Let’s turn back the clock.



Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682-1771), father of the Margagni cataract, was Italian and wrote poetry as a young boy. He earned doctoral degrees in philosophy and medicine in 1701 at age 19. I am not sure if that is impressive, or if he just had so little to learn in 1701. He studied how anatomy and pathology are related to clinical medicine. He refused to dissect patients with tuberculosis or smallpox because he believed these conditions to be contagious. Smart guy.2

Jean Descemet is a French physician (1732–1810) and anatomist. (That is all I could find that I found interesting.)

Edwin Sterling Munson (1870-1958) was an American ophthalmologist.3

Johannes Purkinje (1787-1869) lived in the Czech Republic. He was a physicist who discovered Purkinje cells, Purkinje fibers, and Purkinje effect as well as Purkinje images. I wonder if he ever considered the centration of the black pinhole we put into a 220 µm femtosecond laser pocket to allow old people to read. He also created the world's first independent physiology department.4

William Bowman (1816-1892) was an English histologist and surgeon best known for his research using microscopes. A childhood accident reportedly got him interested in medicine. At the young age of 25, he identified Bowman’s capsule of the nephron. His collaboration with his mentor led to the publication of the five-volume Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man (1843-1856) and Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology (1852), which detailed microscopy and histology, relating minute anatomical observations to physiological functions.

So I thank him for my favorite study guide in optometry school, the physiology coloring book.

He also named the Bowman’s glands of the olfactory mucosa in addition to our favorite, Bowman’s membrane.

I wonder who figured out not to break it?

Bowman practiced as an ophthalmologist at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, which later became known as Moorfields Eye Hospital. He was an early user of the ophthalmoscope invented by Hermann von Helmholtz in 1851. Recall that Hemholtz wrote the Handbook of Physiological Optics (1867). Between 1848 and 1855, Bowman also taught at King's College. In 1880, he founded the Ophthalmological Society,5 which later became the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the 1800 version of Who’s Who.



Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Albrecht von Graefe (1828-1870) is considered the founder of scientific ophthalmology. He studied in Vienna under Christoph Friedrich Jaeger (1784-1871) and Eduard Jaeger Ritter von Jaxtthal (1818-1884), (who gave us J1 print), William Bowman, and with the Dutch physiologist Franz Cornelis Donders (1818-1889). Donders and Graefe apparently had a few beers together based upon what I remember from teaching BV at Indiana University.6 Von Graefe was inducted into the ASCRS Ophthalmology Hall of Fame in 2000.

Sir Jonathan Hutchinson (1828-1913), was an ophthalmologist, dermatologist, venereologist, and pathologist. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1850 and a Fellow in 1862. Hutchinson choose a career in surgery under the influence of his mentor, Sir James Paget (1814-1899).7

His involvement in a variety of specialties was evidenced by his love for club membership. He was president of the Hunterian Society; professor of surgery and pathology at the Royal College of Surgeons; president of the Pathological Society, the Ophthalmological Society (1883), the Neurological Society (1887), the Medical Society, (1890), and of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. Hutchinson’s principal work was related to the study of syphilis, on which he became the first living authority. He would have had a lot of bids on Preference night, I suspect, if fraternities have bid night.

Antoine Marfan (1858-1942) was a French pediatrician. Marfan first described the syndrome in 1896 after observing distinctive features in a 5-year-old girl.8

Alexander Duane (1858-1926) was an ophthalmologist who was a native of New York. He studied medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, now knows as Columbia University. Duane is remembered for contributions to refraction, accommodation, strabismus, and the extraocular muscles. Duane translated Austrian ophthalmologist Ernst Fuchs’ ophthalmic textbook, which first appeared in English in 1903 under the title of Fuchs Textbook of Ophthalmology.9

Stickler’s syndrome is named for the German-American pediatrician Gunnar B. Stickler (1925-2010), who spent much of his career in Minneapolis where he was instrumental in building neonatal and pediatrics services at the Mayo Clinic.10

Horner syndrome, Horner’s muscle, and Horner-Trantas spots are named after Johann Friedrich Horner (183-1886), a Swiss ophthalmologist. After graduating from the University of Zurich in 1854, he went on to study with Albrect von Graefe. He is credited with being the first to introduce antiseptic methods in ocular disease treatment. He supported school hygiene as well as ocular examinations in for school children.11

Julius Hirschberg (1843-1925) was a German ophthalmologist. He served as the editor of Centralblatt für praktische Augenheilkunde (1877-1919), and is credited with creating a magnet to remove foreign bodies from the eye.

I cannot say I have ever seen such an item, but I bet there is an ICD-10 code for a foreign body requiring removal with a magnet.

He also investigated systemic disease ocular manifestations.12



Ernst Fuchs (1851-1930), an Austrian ophthalmologist, physician, and researcher, first described cases of corneal clouding which he termed “dystrophia epithelialis corneae.” He is known for Fuchs heterochromic iridocyclitis, Fuchs dystrophy, and Fuchs spots. He is famous for writing over 250 scientific publications, which considering they did not have Word or Endnote must less spellcheck, is impressive. His textbook of ophthalmology Lehrbuch der Augenheilkunde was used worldwide to educate ophthalmologists.13

Everyone’s favorite Schirmer test was developed by Otto Schirmer (1864-1918), a German ophthalmologist from the University of Freifswald. He immigrated to New York in 1909, where he studied cataracts, sympathetic ophthalmia, and lacrimal problems.14

Krukenberg’s spindle is named for Friedrich Ernst Krukenberg (1871-1946), a German gynecologist and pathologist who studied ophthalmology under Karl Therodor Paul Polykarpus Axenfeld (1867-1930).15 Thank God both ovaries and eyeballs are round.

The Kayser-Fleischer ring was named by Bernhard Kayser and Bruno Fleischer.

Dr. Fleischer (1874-1965) became an extraordinary professor (cool title) in 1909. In 1920 he was called to The Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg as ordinaries (another cool title) and remained tenured there until 1951.16 He is credited with Fleischer’s dystrophy and Fleischer’s ring.

Bernhard Kayser (1869-1954) was a physician who joined the North German Lloyd Shipping company to serve as the ship’s physician. He worked in Brazil as a general practitioner for several years before returning to Germany and specialized in ophthalmology.17

The most widely used screening test for color blindness is the Ishihara Color Vision Test. The test is named after Japanese ophthalmologist Shinobu Ishihara (1879-1963), who first published a description of it in 1917.18

Marshall Miller Parks (1918-2005) was an American ophthalmologist known to many as the father of pediatric ophthalmology. Parks studied under the guidance of Frank D. Costenbader, the first ophthalmologist to dedicate his practice solely to the care of children. Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., now known as the Children's National Medical Center, began the first ophthalmology fellowship training program of any subspecialty.19

That is a fairly impressive list, but I think we need more folks from the 1900s and even the 2000s.

Work on it, people.




1. Korb and Assocates. Our Optometrists. Available at: Accessed 5/10/2016.

2. Who Named It? Giovanni Battista Morgagni. Available at: Accessed 4/13/2016.

3. Bartolucci SL, Stedman TL, Forbis P. Stedman's Medical Eponyms. 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005.

4. Bio. Johannes Purkinje. Available at: Accessed 5/21/2016.

5. Wikipedia. Sir William Bowman, 1st Baronet. Available at:,_1st_Baronet. Accessed 5/15/2016.

6. Who Named It? Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Albrecht von Graefe. Available at: Accessed 5/21/2016.

7. Who Named It? Sir Jonathan Hutchinson. Available at: Accessed 5/15/2016.

8. Marfan’s syndrome. Available at: Accessed 5/21/2016.

9. Success in MRCOphth. Alexander Duane. Available at: Accessed 5/20/2016.

10. Medicine.Net. Definition of Stickler, Gunnar B. Available at: Accessed 5/15/2016.

11. Who Named It? Johann Friedrich Horner. Available at: Accessed on 4/13/2016.

12. Koelbing HM. Julius Hirschberg (1843-1925), ophthalmologist and medical historian (author's transl)]. Klin Monbl Augenheilkd. 1976 Jan;168(1):103-8.

13. Wikipedia. Ernst Fuchs (doctor). Available at: Accessed 4/13/2016.

14. Success in MRCOphth. Otto Schirmer. Available at: Accessed 5/12/2016.

15. Who Named It? Available at: Accessed 4/13/2016.

16. Who Named It? Friedrich Ernst Krukenberg. Available at: Accessed 5/10/2016.

17. Available at: Accessed 5/10/2016.

18. Wikipedia. Shinobu Ishihara. Available at: Accessed 5/19/2016.

19. Wikipedia. Marshall M. Parks. Available at: Accessed 5/18/2016.

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