Franciscus Donders

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Franciscus Cornelis Donders
Donders, Franciscus Cornelis (1818 - 1889).jpg
Franciscus Cornelis Donders
Born May 27, 1818
Died March 24, 1889
Nationality Dutch
Fields ophthalmology
Institutions Utrecht University
Known for eye diseases

Franciscus Cornelis Donders (May 27, 1818 in Tilburg – March 24, 1889 in Utrecht) was a Dutch ophthalmologist. During his career, he was a professor of physiology in Utrecht, and was internationally regarded as an authority on eye diseases, directing the Netherlands Hospital for Eye Patients. Along with Graefe and Helmholtz, he was one of the primary founders of scientific ophthalmology.

For several years the young Donders studied at the military medical school in Utrecht, earning his M.D. in 1840 from the University of Leiden. Following a stint as a medical officer in the Hague, in 1842 he was appointed as a lecturer in physiology and anatomy at the Utrecht military medical school. In 1847 he became an associate professor at Utrecht University, and in 1862 attained a full professorship in physiology.[1] In 1847 he became correspondent of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands, when that became the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1851 he joined as member.[2]

He is known for his work and research of eye disease, and was among the first practitioners of the ophthalmoscope.[3] He is credited with invention of an impression tonometer (1862),[4] and for introduction of prismatic and cylindrical lenses for treatment of astigmatism (1860).[5]

Donders also was the first to use differences in human reaction time to infer differences in cognitive processing. He tested both simple reaction time and choice reaction time, finding that simple reaction was faster.[6] This concept is now one of the central tenets of cognitive psychology— while mental chronometry is not a topic in itself, it is one of the most common tools used for making inferences about processes such as learning, memory, and attention.

Donders founded the Nederlands Gasthuis voor Behoeftige en Minvermogende Ooglijders ( in short: Ooglijdersgasthuis) - the Netherlands Hospital for Necessitous Eye-Patients in 1858. His first associate was Herman Snellen.[7]

In 1864 he published the highly acclaimed "On the anomalies of accommodation and refraction of the eye".[8]


  1. ^ Picture, biography, bibliography and digitized sources in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
  2. ^ "Franciscus Cornelis Donders (1818 - 1889)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Gijn J van, Gijselhart JP (2011). "[Franciscus Donders (1818-1889): ophthalmologist and physiologist]". Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Geneeskunde (in Dutch and Flemish) 155: A1979. PMID 21291574. 
  4. ^ Instruments of science: an historical encyclopedia edited by Robert Bud, Deborah Jean Warner
  5. ^ Google Books An Introduction to the history of medicine by Fielding Hudson Garrison
  6. ^ Goldstein, E. B. Cognitive psychology, connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Wadsworth Pub Co, 2010. Print.
  7. ^ den Tonkelaar e.a. 1996, p. 13
  8. ^ Google Books On the anomalies of accommodation and refraction of the eye
  • Newell, F W (Jun 1989), "Franciscus Cornelis Donders (1818-1889).", American journal of ophthalmology (Jun 15, 1989) 107 (6): 691–3, ISSN 0002-9394, PMID 2658623 
  • Duke-Elder, S (Feb 1959), "FRANCISCUS CORNELIS DONDERS", The British journal of ophthalmology 43 (2), pp. 65–8, doi:10.1136/bjo.43.2.65, PMC 509756, PMID 13628947 
  • ten DOESSCHATE, G (1951), "[The latest works of Franciscus Cornelis Donders.]", Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde (Apr 7, 1951) 95 (14), pp. 1096–7, PMID 14843224 
  • TEN DOESSCHATE, G (1951), "[The personality of Franciscus Cornelis Donders.]", Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde (Nov 17, 1951) 95 (46), pp. 3421–41, PMID 14919660 
  • den Tonkelaar, Isolde, Harold E. Henkes and Gijsbert K. van Leersum (1996) - Eye and instruments : Nineteenth-century ophthalmological instruments in the Netherlands. Amsterdam : Batavian Lion. ISBN 90 6707 400 4. 304 pgs.

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