Harold Ridley (ophthalmologist)

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Harold Ridley
Born Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley
(1906-07-10)10 July 1906
Kibworth Leicestershire
Died 25 May 2001(2001-05-25) (aged 94)
Salisbury Wiltshire
Institutions University of Cambridge
St Thomas' Hospital
Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Alma mater Pembroke College, Cambridge
Known for Intraocular lens
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Knight Bachelor

Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley[1][2] (10 July 1906, Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire – 25 May 2001, Salisbury, Wiltshire) was an English ophthalmologist who invented the intraocular lens and pioneered intraocular lens surgery for cataract patients.[3][4][5]

Early years[edit]

Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley was the son of Nicholas Charles Ridley and his wife Margaret, née Parker; he had a younger brother, Olden. Harold had a stammer which he largely managed to cure. As a child he met and sat on the lap of Florence Nightingale, a close friend of his mother. [3] He was educated at Charterhouse School before studying at Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1924–1927, and completed his medical training in 1930 at St Thomas' Hospital. Subsequently he worked as a surgeon at both St Thomas' Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, specialising in ophthalmology. In 1938 Ridley was appointed full surgeon and consultant at Moorfields Hospital and later appointed consultant surgeon in 1946.

Cataract operations and intraocular lenses[edit]

First permanent insertion of intraocular lens, 8 February 1950

During World War II, Ridley saw Royal Air Force casualties with eye injuries and noticed that when splinters of acrylic plastic from aircraft cockpit canopies became lodged in the eyes of wounded pilots, they did not trigger rejection as glass splinters did, leading him to propose the use of artificial lenses in the eye to correct cases of cataracts.

He had a lens manufactured using the same material – brand name Perspex made by ICI – and on 29 November 1949 at St Thomas' Hospital, Harold Ridley achieved the first implant of an intraocular lens, although it was not until 8 February 1950 that he left an artificial lens permanently in place in an eye. The first lens was manufactured by the Rayner company of Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, a company which continues to manufacture and market modern, small-incision intraocular lenses today.

The first IOL implant in the United States was performed in 1952, a Ridley-Rayner lens implanted at the Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.[6]

Ridley pioneered this treatment in the face of prolonged strong opposition from the medical community. He worked hard to overcome complications, and had refined his technique by the late 1960s. With his pupil Peter Choyce he eventually achieved worldwide support for the technique. The intraocular lens was finally approved as "safe and effective" and approved for use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration in 1981. The first US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved lenses, (Choyce Mark VIII and Choyce Mark IX Anterior Chamber lenses) were manufactured by Rayner.[7]

Cataract extraction surgery with intraocular lens implantation is now the most common type of eye surgery.

The International Intra-Ocular Implant Club (IIIC)[edit]

The Club was founded in 1966 by Ridley and Peter Choyce,[7] to promote research in the field of IOL implantation.[8][9] At that time there was widespread opposition in the profession to the use of IOLs.[3] The founders saw the club as a forum to allow free and unhindered exchange of ideas about IOLs and implantation surgical techniques. From the outset it was international in its membership and set itself a parental and advisory role for the then nascent national societies to develop in each country for intraocular implant surgeons. However, this global role was only acknowledged in the name change in July 1975, when the Intra-Ocular Implant Club became The International Intra-Ocular Implant Club. (IIIC).[8]

The Ridley Eye Foundation[edit]

In 1967 Ridley set up the Ridley Eye Foundation,[10] to raise funds for cataract surgery in developing countries and to treat avoidable blindness.[3] A registered charity under English law,[11] this charitable organisation continues to be active in these fields today, notably in the Middle East.

Onchocerciasis (River Blindness)[edit]

Harold Ridley also led important research[12] into onchocerciasis when he was stationed in the Gold Coast, now Ghana, for part of his war service in World War II.

In 1941 while Ridley acted as part-time sanitation officer at the capital city of Accra, he met Brigadier G. M. Findlay, AMS, who stimulated Ridley's interest to study River Blindness, an endemic disease in parts of the country. To find onchocerciasis patients, Ridley left the coastal city and travelled overland with Captain John Holden to north west Ghana. He worked in Funsi in the Wa East District of the Upper West Region for two weeks, examining patients with a slit-lamp, which ran off a 12-volt battery. Most (90%) had onchocerciasis; ten percent of these were blind. Conditions were primitive and Ridley recorded his observations of the retinal fundus by water-colour painting and photography. His painting of the fundus (sometimes termed the "Ridley fundus" of onchocerciasis) was completed in Accra upon his return from Funsi. "The attention he called to this disease constitutes one of Mr. Ridley's major contributions. His monograph "Ocular Onchocerciasis," published in 1945 in a supplement of the British Journal of Ophthalmology was a landmark."[3][12]

Later life[edit]

Ridley retired from NHS hospital service in 1971.[3]

In the 1990s he underwent successful bilateral intraocular lens implantation at St Thomas's Hospital by surgeon Mr. Michael Falcon. Thus Harold Ridley benefitted from his own invention and the operational procedure he had pioneered but what was most pleasing to him was that he had it done in the same hospital where he performed the first operation.[4]

Sir Harold Ridley resided in Stapleford near Salisbury, Wiltshire until his death on 25 May 2001.

Recognition, Honours and awards[edit]

In the thirty years after implanting the first intraocular lens Ridley received scant thanks and recognition from his peers. That began to change in the last twenty years of his life when he finally received the recognition that an inventor whose invention restored the sight of millions of patients worldwide, finally he was honoured with a knighthood.[13]

  • In 1986 Harold Ridley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.[1][3]
  • His first academic honour was an honorary doctorate degree, Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL), conferred in 1989 by the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston.
  • In 1992, Ridley received the Gullstrand Medal (conferred by the Swedish Society of Medicine) named after the famous Swedish ophthalmic surgeon Allvar Gullstrand
  • In 1994, he received the Gonin Medal (conferred by the Club Jules Gonin, Lausanne Switzerland) named after the renowned Swiss retinal surgeon Jules Gonin.
  • In April 1999, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery in Seattle, Washington, Ridley was honoured in a special anniversary session as one of the most outstanding and influential ophthalmologists of the 20th century.
  • Later the same year at the 1999 meeting of the European Society of Ophthalmology (Stockholm, July 1999) he was honoured and at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Vienna, September 1999).
  • Announced on 31 December 1999, the New Year Honours 2000 list for the United Kingdom and New Zealand included Harold Ridley as one of forty-five people accorded with the honour of Knight Bachelor, "for pioneering services to Cataract Surgery".[14] Subsequently, at a ceremony in February 2000, he was knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. This Millennium Honour was the culmination of years of lobbying work by Ridley's biographer (David J Apple), prominent surgeon friends such as Emanuel Rosen and Thomas Neuhann with leaders of industry such as Donald J Munro, Chairman and managing director of Rayner company of Brighton & Hove, UK.[3]
  • A Heritage Blue plaque to commemorate his groundbreaking work was installed in Kibworth Harcourt on 18 February 2012, thanks to the research carried out by Bob Haggerty, a local resident who has himself had an intraocular lens fitted, and supported by Kibworth Improvement Team (KiT), the local community partnership.[15]
  • In 2013, a biographical profile of Harold Ridley was included in a best-selling book called Saving Sight: An eye surgeon's look at life behind the mask and the heroes who changed the way we see, by Andrew Lam (author), M.D.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Apple, D. J. (2007). "Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley 10 July 1906 -- 25 May 2001: Elected FRS 1986". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 53: 285–307. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2007.0022. PMID 18543467. 
  2. ^ Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley at Britannica.com
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Apple, David J (2006). Sir Harold Ridley and his fight for sight. SLACK incorporated. ISBN 1-55642-786-7. 
  4. ^ a b Williams, H. P. (2001). "Sir Harold Ridley's vision". British Journal of Ophthalmology 85 (9): 1022–1023. doi:10.1136/bjo.85.9.1022. PMC 1724118. PMID 11520745. 
  5. ^ Apple, D. J. (1999). "Harold Ridley, MA, MD, FRCS". Archives of Ophthalmology 117 (6): 827–828. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.6.827. PMID 10369599. 
  6. ^ Letocha, C. E.; Pavlin, C. J. (1999). "Follow-up of 3 patients with Ridley intraocular lens implantation". Journal of cataract and refractive surgery 25 (4): 587–591. doi:10.1016/S0886-3350(99)80061-3. PMID 10198869. 
  7. ^ a b Pandey, S. K.; Apple, D. J. (2005). "Professor Peter Choyce: An early pioneer of intraocular lenses and corneal/refractive surgery". Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology 33 (3): 288–293. doi:10.1111/j.1442-9071.2005.01005.x. PMID 15932534. 
  8. ^ a b "Welcome to IIIClub.org". The International Intra-Ocular Implant Club. 
  9. ^ "Rayner IOL History 1966–1975 Intraocular Implant Club". Rayner Intraocular Lenses Limited. 
  10. ^ "The Ridley Eye Foundation". 
  11. ^ Ridley Eye Foundation, Registered Charity no. 252090 at the Charity Commission
  12. ^ a b "Ocular Onchocerciasis Including an Investigation in the Gold Coast". British Journal of Ophthalmology 29 (Suppl): 3–58. 1945. doi:10.1136/bjo.29.Suppl.3. PMC 513929. PMID 18170175. 
  13. ^ Apple, David J. (2006). Sir Harold Ridley and his fight for sight : he changed the world so that we may better see it. Thorofare, NJ: Slack. ISBN 1-55642-786-7. 
  14. ^ anon. "New Year Honours 2000". Knights Bachelor. www.spiritus-temporis.com. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  15. ^ "Commemorating Sir Harold Ridley's birthplace". 
  16. ^ Lam, Andrew. Saving Sight: An eye surgeon's look at life behind the mask and the heroes who changed the way we see (978-1617203794) Bokeelia, FL; Irie Books, 2013.

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