Historical Timeline

Follow along as the history of retina unfolds. Learn about key people, developments and events that map the emergence and evolution of the specialty.

2017

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first gene therapy to treat a rare, inherited form of childhood blindness. Clinical trials showed the gene therapy could restore vision for people between the ages of 4 and 44 with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), an inherited retinal disease caused by mutations in the gene RPE65. Retina specialist Nina Berrocal, MD, FASRS, performed the first gene therapy surgery in the US.

2015

Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A), a non-invasive imaging technology that enables doctors to visualize blood vessels in the retina and macula, is approved by the FDA.

2013

The ARGUS II Retinal Prosthesis, developed by Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, receives approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. This breakthrough technology was the first ever to offer limited vision to patients with late-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP). The Argus II featured 60 electrodes and a tiny camera mounted on eyeglasses to capture images.

2004

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first ophthalmic drug to specifically target vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that acts as a signal in triggering abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage in neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), revolutionizing treatment of the condition.

1991

James Fujimoto, Adolf Fercher, Christoph Hitzenberger, David Huang, and Eric Swanson invent optical coherence tomography (OCT), leading to a transformation in the way retina specialists care for patients.

1975

Oleg Pomerantzef develops the Equator-Plus camera, the first wide-angle camera system, which used a contact lens and fiber optic scleral transillumination to obtain a 148° field of view.

1971

Robert Machemer, Anton Banko, and Jean-Marie Parel develop the vitreous infusion suction cutter (VISC), one of the first commercially available instruments to remove vitreous.

1961

Harold Novotny, MD, and David Alvis, MD, publish the first method of using fluorescein angiography (FA) in human eyes.

1961

David Kasner performs the first planned subtotal vitrectomy and later performs the first “open-sky” vitrectomy in the US.

1955

Tsugio Dodo performs the first “open-sky” vitrectomy using a technique he termed “diapupillary resection”.

1942

The first scleral buckling procedure with a retained exoplant is performed by Ernst Custodis.

1933

Gian Battista Bietti performs the first cryosurgery for the treatment of retinal detachment.

1925

JW Nordenson invents the modern fundus camera. It becomes commercially available through the Carl Zeiss Company in 1926 and remains the predominant commercial fundus camera until 1953.

1920

Jules Gonin correctly observes that retinal breaks were the cause of retinal detachment and introduces his procedure called "Ignipuncture", the first surgical treatment for retinal detachment.

1901

Friederich Dimmer developed the first fundus camera, was the first to incorporate fundus photography into an ophthalmic textbook, and published the first photographic retinal atlas in black-and-white. According to Dimmer’s original description, his fundus camera occupied an entire tabletop and only one such camera was ever produced.

1886

William Thomas Jackman and J. Daniel Webster publish the first photographs of the retina.

1851

Hermann von Helmholtz develops the ophthalmoscope, featuring three essential elements: a source of illumination, a method of reflecting the light into the eye, and an optical means of correcting an out-of-focus image of the fundus.

1791

Samuel Thomas Soemmerring discovers and illustrates the macula lutea in the retina.