Robert Machemer

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Robert Machemer (16 March 1933 in Münster[1] – 23 December 2009 in Durham, North Carolina) was a German-American ophthalmologist, ophthalmic surgeon, and inventor. He is sometimes called the "father of modern retinal surgery."[2]

Helmut Machemer,[3][4] Robert's father, was an ophthalmologist who died in the Ukraine on 18th May 1942, leaving a widow and three small sons. In 1953, when Robert Machemer completed his Abitur, he worked for six months in a steel mill to partially finance his medical school education. He studied medicine at the University of Münster, where he received his MD,[5] and the University of Freiburg, where his received his Promotierung in 1959. From 1962 to 1966 he was an assistant in the University Eye Clinic of Göttingen. In 1966 he received a two-year NATO fellowship and moved, with his wife and three-year-old daughter, to Miami to work at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. He remained at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute until 1978, when he became the chair of Duke University Medical School's Department of Ophthalmology, serving in that capacity until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1991.[6]

Machemer and Helmut Buettner created the vitreous infusion suction cutter (VISC), an instrument that made possible endoillumination and safe removal of the vitreous through extremely small cuts in the pars plana.[5][7] On 20 April 1970 Machemer and his surgical team performed the first pars plana vitrectomy.[7][8][9] (Who performed the first pars plana vitrectomy might be in dispute due to claims of priority by Japanese ophthalmologists.[10])

Dr. Machemer is best known for his development of pars plana vitrectomy, a surgical procedure which has revolutionized the treatment of posterior segment eye diseases during the last quarter of the twentieth century.[11]

He established an animal model of retinal detachment and used this model to study proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), which Machemer originally called massive periretinal proliferation.[12]

Awards and honors[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Machemer, R. (1975). Vitrectomy: a pars plana approach. NY: Grune & Stratton; xii+138 pages (appendix by William E. Benson) 
    • Machemer, R.; Aaberg, T. M. (1979). 2nd edition; xv+262 pages 


  1. ^ biographical information from American Men and Women of Science, Thomson Gale 2004
  2. ^ Goes, Frank Joseph (2013). "Robert Machemer". The Eye in History. Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers. p. 13. 
  3. ^ "Zum Gedenken an Helmut Machemer" von Bernd Hammerschmidt, 2015 (in German)
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Robert Machemer, MD | ASCRS (with video)
  6. ^ In Memory of Robert Machemer — Cremation Society of the Carolinas
  7. ^ a b Angelucci, Diane (November 2000). "Vitrectomy pioneer inducted into Ophthalmology Hall of Fame". EyeWorld. 
  8. ^ Machemer R; Buettner H; Norton EW; Parel JM (1971). "Vitrectomy: a pars plana approach". Transactions—American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. 75 (4): 813–820. 
  9. ^ Aaberg TM (2010). "Surgery as the primary management of proliferative vitreoretinopathy: a history reflecting my experiences and biases". Archives of Ophthalmology. 128 (8): 1068–1070. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.150. 
  10. ^ Charles, Steve (September 2008). "The History of Vitrectomy: Innovation and Evolution". Retina Today. 
  11. ^ a b c Robert Machemer - Helen Keller Foundation (with video)
  12. ^ Machemer R; Laqua H (1975). "Pigment epithelium proliferation in retinal detachment (massive periretinal proliferation)". American Journal of Ophthalmology. 80 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1016/0002-9394(75)90862-4. 

External links[edit]