|Year : 1963 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 25-29
XIX. International congress of ophthalmology
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S N Cooper
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:
Cooper S N. XIX. International congress of ophthalmology. Indian J Ophthalmol 1963;11:25-9
The XIX International Congress of Ophthalmology may have meant much to many Ophthalmologists of the world but to Indian Ophthalmologists it meant something very special. It meant the recognition of Asian Ophthalmology, it meant an Indian President of the International, it eared the thrill of a concerted attempt by ali Indian Ophthalmologists to shoulder the task of a successful International. Above all it meant a fillip to research and some original work in Ophthalmology from all the corners of the country. It meant hope for India's four million economically blind, as accent was to be laid on some of the tropical diseases lead. ing to blindness. It meant hard work, adjustments of ideas and selfless cooperation. All this for a four days' meet from the 3rd to the 7th December in India's Capital New Delhi at its magnificent "Vigyan Bhavan" - The House of Knowledge-the meeting place of most International Conferences held in this country. The unique facilities provided in this building to accommodate the multiferous activities that go with such functions made this venue admirable for the purpose.
The arrangements presented difficulties, since the Secretary General was in Bombay and the venue was New Delhi. The President therefore organized an Administration Committee so that the work in Bombay and New Delhi could be coordinated. The Administration Committee consisted of Capt. Sen as the President, Cooper, (Bom.) and Kaul (Delhi) as Vice Presidents, Pandit (Bom.) and Mitten (Delhi) as secretary-general and the local secretary-general respectively and Dastoor as treasurer. The arrangement worked very satisfactorily and a large measure of the credit must naturally go to the Secretary-general Dr. Y. K. C. Pandit, and his counterpart in Delhi Dr. Hitter. They were helped by local secretaries in dealing with accommodation, entertainment, receptions, exhibitions, tours etc.
Import restrictions, censorship on all films (including those of an educative nature) and a surprise. Chinese aggression on the Border some two months before the Conference, greatly added to the difficulties, and had not the Chinese obliged by their equally surprising "cease fire" and inexplicable retreat, the success of the Conference would have been in great doubt and perhaps it would not have been held at all. The Government was helpful in solving the difficulties about restrictions on imports of scientific exhibits and censorship of medical films after some correspondence. However these restrictions were responsible for the fact that not many firms participated in the commercial exhibition and very few scientific exhibits were received from abroad. Dr. Pandit and his collaborators in Delhi seemed to thrive on these difficulties because the ultimate success of the conference as a whole was not much affected. Some of the entertainment and reception items had to be cancelled and the annual banquet had to be reduced to a less ceremonious dinner without distinguished guests. The total number of delegates who attended was 1,325 in spite of the fact that there were many cancellations at the last moment in view of the Chinese aggression and temporary suspension of internal air travel.
The conference atmosphere began to blow on December 2, with registration of delegates who were handed bags with the program, abstracts of papers, the badge, a Souvenir and a guide to the City of Delhi, by smart receptionists who could speak also in French, German and Spanish. The excellent Souvenir contained articles describing some of the customs of India, sight-seeing in the country, Indian art, music and dancing, the commercial growth of India, a short history of Ophthalmology and medicine in India, distribution of eye diseases and their prevention measures and finally a list of Ophthalmic Institutions in India. The emblem on the badge and incidentally the emblem of the XIX International had the "Ajenta" eye and a lotus flower, both characteristic of India.
On this day, the Union Minister of Health, Shrimati Dr. Sushila Nayar set the ball rolling by declaring open the Scientific and Commercial Exhibition after a speech in which she traced the interdependence between commercial firms and scientific research in the relief of blindness in this country. She gave an idea of the extent of ocular diseases in India and how her department was grappling the situation in the face of paucity of locally manufactured goods, exchange difficulties in securing equipment, shortage of staff and the policy of nationalization of production. The Health Minister then took a round of the exhibition and was particularly interested in the contributions by Indian Ophthalmologists and Indian firms in the Scientific and Commercial wings of this exhibition.
In the evening a buffet-dinner and dance was arranged for all the attending delegates by the All-India Ophthalmological Society at the Ashoka Hotel. December 3. This great day of the opening of the Conference was heralded by banners of all the participating nations, exhibited outside the building, music by the band of the Government House, rush to the local post office for the issue of a special postage stamp worth 15 nP. in recognition of this important occasion and by exchange of greetings and handshakes between members wearing multi-coloured distinguishing badges. With the arrival of the President of India, Dr. Radhakrishnan, the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Ambassadors of several nations, the Inauguration Session began with the band playing the National Anthem.
The President of the Congress Prof. K. Sen welcomed the distinguished guests and overseas members after which Sir Stewart Duke-Elder extended the welcome to the delegates on behalf of the International Council of Ophthalmology and the International Federation of Ophthalmological Societies. Representatives of each Continent then gave their inaugural addresses.
In his inaugural address the Rashtrapathi praised the role of Ophthalmologists as servants of suffering humanity and lauded the idea of a world family of ophthalmology knowing no racial or national barriers, dedicated to the noble task of preventing and curing physical blindness. He, however, drew attention to the spiritual blindness to which most of us are victims and which makes us live in a world of fear, want and hunger. While he lauded the attempt of the International Federation to expand into a world-family of Ophthalmologists, he exhorted the members to spread their efforts to expand into a world-family of human beings by love, goodwill and understanding.
Dr. Radhakrishnan then handed to the President of the International Council the badge of his office, which was presented by Lady Duggan in memory of her late husband Sir Jamshedji Duggan.
In a brief speech Sir Stewart Duke Elder, after narrating the contributions made by the engineering and mathematical genius of Prof. Hans Goldmann to modern ophthalmology, requested Dr. Radhakrishnan to pin on Prof. Goldmann the Gonin Medal which was done with great acclamation.
This was followed by the speech of the President of the Congress in which he briefly traced the history of Ophthalmology in India and the contributions made by some English Ophthalmologists serving in India under the Indian Medical Service, to modern Ophthalmology. Finally he presented the problems in prevention of blindness peculiar to Indian conditions.
Sir Stewart Duke-Elder traced the contribution of India to Ophthalmology in greater detail, right from its origin in the Vedic period to its glory in Sushrut's times and then through a steady disintegration because of several invasions, to its Renaissance after political stabilization through the British Raj. He speculated on the future of this branch of science in the New India after its Independence and exhorted the older Ophthalmologists of the World to support the new enthusiasm and vigour with which Young India faces the challenge.
The Nobel Prize winner Sir C. V. Kaman, who was invited as a special guest then gave an oration on his researches on Theory of Colour Vision.
The Scientific activities of the Congress began in the afternoon of the 3rd. Simultaneous translations were provided for the inauguration, symposia and reports. With two official languages the work proceeded quite satisfactorily, thanks to the official translators of the WHO who had to be brought from Switzerland. The activities were spread out simultaneously in four different sections in four different halls:
(1) Symposia and reports,
(3) Scientific films,
(4) Meetings of special bodies sponsored by the International Council.
As usual the section on free papers which was limited to 50 selected papers only was the least patronized but even here some of the papers evoked lively discussion and clarification. On the other hand symposia and reports were so well attended that the halls available proved rather small to accommodate all the listeners in comfort. Very few seemed to grudge this discomfort because the intellectual fare provided was very appetizing.
There were four symposia- (i) electron microscopy, directed by Francois, (2) complications of cataract surgery directed by Paufique, (3) Eales's disease, Director Agarwal and (4) Aviation Ophthalmology, Director Dunnington.
The two reports were on (1) Tropical Parasitological Diseases and (2) Corneal degeneration, which again provided some most interesting presentations of years of labour in collection and preparation of clinical material. The paper by De Rezende Cyro had to be read by Dr. Chitnis because of the tragic death of the author in a car accident.
The Indian Ophthalmologists who took part in the scientific section played their part well and in return have profited much from the method of presentation of their colleagues from abroad. Among Asians, the Japanese contingent was quite strong and they covered a wide variety of subjects. A welcome feature was the active participation of Russian Ophthalmologists in the International for the first time.
As usual, cinema films, forty-six in number, Maintained great interest among many Ophthalmologists.
International Congresses are dotted with many social events and tours. Although a big program was initially planned it had to be sacrificed to a large extent due to the emergency. The "Cultural Show" at the Fine Arts theater was much appreciated and the official dinner instead of the banquet was spiced with interesting after-dinner speeches. It was good to hear through Derrick Vail, that visiting Ophthalmologists appreciated our difficulties and laughed at some of the inevitable slips and short-comings in an organization rocked by an invasion which nearly threw the XIX International on the rocks.
So came to a close this memorable Congress on December 7th at an impressive ceremony where a genuine appreciation of our country's effort was voiced by the delegates of each continent. At the ceremony, the services of two of the oldest members of the All-India Ophthalmological Society to the Society were appreciated by the presentation to them of the Society's gold medals by Sir Stewart Duke-Elder. Also at this ceremony Derrick Vail was invested with the badge of the president-elect of the International Council. Announcement was made of Muller as the next President of the XX Congress to be held at Munich in 1966.
The curtain came down finally to the soft music of the National Anthem on a successful Congress of the International of which India and Indian Ophthalmologists may justly be proud.
In the afternoon a trip to Agra in a special air-conditioned train to see the Taj under the full-moon was organized. The 158 members, who were on this trip enjoyed the memorable experience heartily.
[Figure - 1], [Figure - 2], [Figure - 3], [Figure - 4]
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