gms | German Medical Science

102. Jahrestagung der DOG

Deutsche Ophthalmologische Gesellschaft e. V.

23. bis 26.09.2004, Berlin

Science and handicraft in cataract-surgery: a never-ending conflict?

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author M. Wenzel - Abteilung für Allgemeine Ophthalmologie, Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Brüder, Trier

Evidenzbasierte Medizin - Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. 102. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Ophthalmologischen Gesellschaft. Berlin, 23.-26.09.2004. Düsseldorf, Köln: German Medical Science; 2004. Doc04dogFR.14.04

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 22, 2004

© 2004 Wenzel.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Medical science and cataract surgery are known in Europe since some 2.500 years. There have been deep frontiers between them since then. Hippocrates prohibited surgical procedures to physicians, as handicraft educated surgeons were more experienced in this subject. The scientific educated physicians believed, that they would understand all the aspects of surgical procedures. Even A. v. Haller, a well-known Swiss professor of surgery of the 18th century, was proud never having done any surgical procedure with his own hands.

Up to the 18th century, the scientists believed, that cataract would be a membrane in front of the lens and that cataract-surgeons would open this membrane in spite of couching the lens. It was not a scientist, but a French surgeon, M. Brisseau, who was able to convince the scientific academy in Paris of the true nature of cataract. At the end of the 18th century, G. J. Beer from Vienna started to bring an end to only handicraft-educated surgeons and replaced them by academic surgeons in the whole of Europe. Ophthalmic highlights in the 19th century were introduced in cooperation with the scientific establishment, but in the 20th century, cataract-surgical highlights were introduced against the scientific establishment (IOLs, phacoemulsification).

It has to be all our aim, that the old conflict between handicraft and scientific aspects in ophthalmology will not break out again.