Arthur Jacob

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Arthur Jacob
20160802 Arthur Jacob RVEEH.jpg
Photograph of a marble bust of Arthur Jacob on the main staircase of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Born Arthur Jacob
June 1790
Maryborough, Ireland
Died 1874
Nationality Irish
Citizenship Ireland
Occupation Ophthalmologist

Arthur Jacob (1790–1874) was an Irish ophthalmologist. He is known for founding several hospitals, a medical school, and a medical journal. He contributed to science and academia through his 41-year term as Professor of Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and as the first Irish ocular pathologist.[1]


Jacob, second son of John Jacob, M.D. (1754–1827), surgeon to the Queen's County (now Laois) infirmary, Maryborough (now Portlaoise), Ireland, by his wife Grace (1765–1835), only child of Jerome Alley of Donoughmore, was born at Knockfin, Maryborough, on 13 or 30 June 1790. He studied medicine with his father and at Steevens's Hospital, Dublin, under Abraham Colles. Having graduated M.D. at the University of Edinburgh in 1814, he set out on a walking tour through the United Kingdom, crossing the Channel at Dover, and continuing his walk from Calais to Paris.

He studied at Paris until Napoleon's return from Elba. He subsequently pursued his studies in London under Sir B. Brodie, Sir A. Cooper, and Sir W. Lawrence. In 1819 he returned to Dublin, and became demonstrator of anatomy under Dr. James Macartney at Trinity College. Here his anatomical researches gained for him a reputation, and he collected a museum, which Macartney afterwards sold to the university of Cambridge.

On leaving Macartney, Jacob joined with Graves and others in founding the Park Street School of Medicine. In 1826 he was elected Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at RCSI, and held the chair until 1869.[2] He was three times elected President of RCSI. In 1832, in conjunction with Charles Benson and others, he established the City of Dublin Hospital. With Dr. Henry Maunsell in 1839 he started the Dublin Medical Press, a weekly journal of medical science, and edited forty-two volumes (1839 to 1859). He also contributed to the Dublin Journal of Medical Science. He took an active part in founding the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund Society of Ireland and the Irish Medical Association. At the age of seventy-five he retired from the active pursuit of his profession. His fame rests on his anatomical and ophthalmological discoveries.

In December 1860 a medal bearing Jacob's likeness was struck and presented to him, and his portrait, bust, and library were later placed in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He died at Newbarnes, Barrow-in-Furness, on September 21, 1874.


In 1819 Jacob announced the discovery, which he had made in 1816, of a previously unknown membrane of the eye, in a paper in the Philosophical Transactions (pt. i. pp. 300–7). The membrane has been known since as membrana Jacobi and forms the retina.

Apart from his discovery of the membrana Jacobi, he described Jacob's ulcer, and revived cataract surgery through the cornea with a curved needle. To the Cyclopædia of Anatomy he contributed an article on the eye, and to the Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine treatises on Ophthalmia and Amaurosis. His major publications were:

  1. A Treatise on the Inflammation of the Eyeball, 1849.
  2. On Cataract and the Operation for its Removal by Absorption, 1851.


In 1824 Jacob married Sarah, daughter of Coote Carroll, of Ballymote, County Sligo. She died on January 6, 1839. By her he had five sons.