Contributed by Andrew Gregory, MD (Cand)
Alfred Vogt was born on October 31, 1879, on a farm in the scenic municipality of Menziken in the canton of Aargau in Switzerland. From a young age, Vogt showed a deep interest in the natural sciences, as noted by his complete butterfly collection.
In 1899, he began his journey to medicine in Zurich, and after his first semester, transferred to Basel University. Vogt had initially aspired to become a surgeon, but the director of Basel University Eye Clinic at the time, Carl Mellinger inspired Vogt to pursue ophthalmology. Under Mellinger’s mentorship, Vogt wrote and eventually published a dissertation about the harmful effects of artificial aniline dyes on the eyes. This was a particularly relevant subject matter to explore during this time as the surrounding city of Basel was filled with various highly industrialized pharmaceutical and chemical factories. In 1904, Vogt passed the state boards.
Two years later, in March of 1906, Vogt parted ways with the eye hospital in Basel and did an internship in the city of Turin in Italy with the well-renowned ophthalmologist Carlo Reymond. Vogt eventually returned to Switzerland, where he married Marie Bossardt.[1,2] In August of the same year, he opened his ophthalmology practice and in a short 3 years, he became the chief doctor at the clinic of the regional hospital of Aargau Caton. Due to his robust leadership, the ophthalmology clinic saw a rapid rise in the number of patients, which subsequently led to an increase in the reputation of the clinic.
During his lifetime, Vogt published 246 scientific and medical papers. Vogt also optimized and improved the functionality of the slit lamp developed by the Swedish ophthalmologist Allvar Gulltrand, extending the utility of such a pertinent physical exam instrument. During his clinical practice, he described the case of a patient with active uveitis whose eyelashes turned a grey color. Interestingly, an identical clinical picture in patients was observed halfway across the globe in Japan by ophthalmologists Yoshizo Koyangi and Einosuke Harada, later becoming named Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease. In 1917, Vogt was appointed the director of the Basel eye clinic and was awarded the title of extraordinary professor of ophthalmology.
From 1920-1922, Vogt served as the president of the Swiss Ophthalmological Society and organized the first international symposium on the microscopy of the slit lamp. After serving in this position, in 1922, Vogt accepted to be the chair of the University Eye Clinic of Zurich, which was a far larger hospital than the Basal eye clinic. Additionally, Vogt published his tremendously detailed textbook entitled “Atlas of the Slitlamp-Microscopy of the Living Eye”, which included a staggering more than 2,000 illustrations of slit lamp findings. Additionally, Vogt revolutionized the surgical management of retinal detachment by describing the technique of catholysis – the intricate closure of the retinal hole. This was published in the work “Surgical therapy and the pathogenesis of retinal detachment” in 1936.
In 1932, Vogt was awarded the Donders Medal of the Dutch Ophthalmological Society and in 1942 the most prestigious ophthalmologist award – the Gullstrand medal. Despite his great fervor and enthusiasm in his research work and clinical practice, Vogt died in Zurich, Switzerland in 1943. His vibrant energy and passion live in the hearts of ophthalmologists who work tirelessly using the instruments and techniques that he revolutionized to heal one of the most important senses patients cherish – their vision.