Contributed by Maha Ahmed, MD (cand)
On May 30, 1816, Dr. Marc Antoine Louis Félix Giraud-Teulon was born to Marc Antoine Marguerite Félix Giraud and Nancy Casmir in La Rochelle, France. Dr. Giraud-Teulon’s diverse professional career began with his enrollment at the “École Polytechnique''. Upon his graduation in 1838, he worked as a Government Civil Engineer undertaking several projects aimed at improving roads and canals in France. A man of many ambitions and talents, Dr. Giraud-Teulon did not remain in this role for very long and at the age of 35, he was enticed into a career in medicine, and he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine in Montpellier. However, his career in medicine was interrupted in 1848 when he was appointed as a Prefect of Haute-Alps and Ardeche. After working as a Prefect of the 11th Republic of France for three years, conflicts with Napoleon III again caused Dr. Giraud-Teulon to shift careers and he once again turned to medicine in 1851, working as a General Practitioner in Nice for four years. In 1856, Dr. Giraud-Teulon moved back to Paris, and this is when his enormous contributions to the field of ophthalmology began.
Today, Dr. Giraud-Teulon is best known in the field for his invention of the binocular ophthalmoscope. Incorporating his engineering background into medicine, Dr. Giraud-Teulon made the first known attempt to view the fundus stereoscopically by devising an instrument with rhomboid prisms, concave mirrors, condensing lenses, and oil lamps for illumination. This hand-held ophthalmoscope had some shortcomings which Dr. Giraud-Teulon attempted to improve. First, the inter-pupillary distance was fixed on the instrument. This problem was addressed in Dr. Giraud-Teulon’s second model of the binocular ophthalmoscope by dividing the right-hand prism, allowing the end section to move in and out with a handle on a screw thread. This adjustment allowed for the accommodation of different inter-pupillary settings. The second major drawback of this rudimentary ophthalmoscope was the lack of adequate illumination. Dr. Giraud-Teulon attempted to address this problem by incorporating an incandescent lamp into the instrument creating the first self-illuminating ophthalmoscope, though at the time, incandescent lamps were still novel and had poor outputs and short half-lives. Despite the improvements that Dr. Giraud-Teulon made to his invention, hand-held binocular ophthalmoscopes did not gain much popularity and their use remained limited in the 1800s.
Throughout his life, Dr. Giraud-Teulon endeavored to make improvements to the world around him, and although his binocular ophthalmoscope proved to be too cumbersome for practical use, his innovative invention was a tremendous advancement in the field. In addition to his contributions to science and medicine, Dr. Giraud-Teulon’s work in ophthalmology also made an enormous impact on the lives of those around him. Residing in Saint-Germain in 1874 until his death on August 19, 1887, Dr. Giraud-Teulon provided free eye care to those who could not afford it each morning before he began work in his own private clinic. From civil engineering to public prefect and finally, to medicine, Dr. Giraud Teulon’s path to medicine was not direct, however, his impact on the field is everlasting.