Skip to main content
UNC Libraries


The invention of the ophthalmoscope in 1851 by Hermann von Helmholtz revolutionized the study of the human eye by giving doctors a non-invasive way to observe the posterior part of the eye (the fundus) in live, conscious subjects.1 The field of ophthalmology itself could almost be said to have coalesced around the invention. Other ophthalmologists quickly designed their own versions of the instrument; those of Eugène Follin and Xavier Galezowski appear below.2 Within a decade, the appearance of the human eye through an ophthalmoscope—vividly red-orange, spiderwebbed with nerves and blood vessels radiating out from the optic disk—became an iconic part of medical imagery.

Among the brightest stars of ophthalmoscopic era were Henri Parinaud and the aforementioned Galezowski, whose Paris-based practices achieved international recognition. Galezowski, who immigrated from Poland to study at the Faculté de Médecine, set up a popular private clinic in Paris and became known for his diagnostic accuracy and surgical dexterity.3 Parinaud was involved with the neurological revolution at the Salpêtrière, and contributed to the study of neuro-ophthalmic conditions such as strabismus, ophthalmoplegic migraine, and the gaze paresis called dorsal midbrain syndrome or, eponymously, Parinaud's syndrome.4 In the last quarter of the 19th century, neurologists like Jean-Martin Charcot were using ophthalmoscopes as part of the standard neurological examination.5


  1. Keeler, "The Ophthalmoscope and the Lifetime of Hermann von Helmholtz." For an excellent explanation of how the ophthalmoscope works and why it is necessary to view the fundus, see Timberlake and Kennedy, "The Direct Ophthalmoscope," 9-12.
  2. For a contemporary account of this proliferation of ophthalmoscopes, see Zander, The Ophthalmoscope, 33-35.
  3. Amalric, "The Galezowski tradition," 105-6.
  4. Roper-Hall, "Historical Vignette," 127-128, 130; Ouvrir, "Henri Parinaud," 1571-2.
  5. Goetz, Bonduelle, and Gelfand, Charcot, 139.
  6. See Keller, "The Ophthalmoscope in the Lifetime of Hermann von Helmholtz."
  7. Bellan, "The Evolution of Cataract Surgery."
  8. Amalric, "Galezowski tradition," 108


    • Amalric, Pierre M. "The Galezowski tradition in Paris." Documenta Ophthalmologica 98.1 (1999): 105-113.
    • Bellan, Lorne. "The Evolutuion of Cataract Surgery: The Most Common Eye Procedure in Older Adults." Geriatrics and Aging 11.6 (2008): 328-332.
    • Goetz, Christopher G., Michel Bonduelle, and Toby Gelfand. Charcot: Constructing Neurology. Oxford University Press, 1995.
    • Keeler, C. Richard. "The Ophthalmoscope in the Lifetime of Hermann von Helmholtz." Archives of Ophthalmology 120.2 (2002): 194-201. DOI: 10.1001/archopht.120.2.194.
    • Ouvrir, Robert. "Henri Parinaud (1844-1905)." Journal of Neurology 258.8 (2011): 1571-1572.
    • Roper-Hall, Gill. "Historical Vignette: Henri Parinaud (1844-1905): French Ophthalmologist and Pioneer in Neuroophthalmology." American Orthoptic Journal 64.1 (2014): 126-133. DOI: 10.3368/aoj.64.1.126.
    • Timberlake, George T. and Michael Kennedy. "The Direct Ophthalmoscope: How it Works and How to Use it." University of Kansas, 2005.
    • Zander, Adolf. The Ophthalmoscope: its varieties and its use. Translated by Bert Brudenell Carter. London: Robert Hardwicke, 1864. Google Books.