Contributed by Michael Saad, MD Cand
Ernst Adolf Coccius was born on September 19, 1825, in Knauthan, Germany, into a prestigious family. He and his younger brother, Theodor Coccius, were both successful within their respective fields of study. Coccius became a well-renowned ophthalmologist who had significant, innovative contributions to the field, while his brother Theodor was a skilled and well-known pianist.
Coccius studied medicine across Europe in Leipzig, Prague, and Paris, finally earning his medical doctorate in 1848. After graduating, Coccius returned home to the city of Leipzig to work under Dr. Friedrich Philipp Ritterich at the Leipzig Eye Clinic. From 1849 to 1857, Coccius trained under the mentorship of Ritterich, who had previously worked with the notorious ophthalmologists Georg Beer and Johann Schmidt. Ritterich discovered amblyopia in the late 1850s and subsequently decreased his responsibilities in the clinic. Eventually, he was unable to continue practicing and passed on his duties to Coccius. In 1867, Coccius officially became director of the private clinic and took on professorship duties at the University of Leipzig.
In 1853, Coccius published an article that described the innovative ophthalmoscope he designed, which was an improvement from the original design by Hermann Helmholtz. In this article, Coccius documents the first sighting of a retinal tear with his ophthalmoscope and proposed an association with retinal detachment.
Coccius remained in his positions as clinic director and professor until he died in 1890. His devotion to and advances in the field are remarkable.