Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

: 2020  |  Volume : 68  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 309--310

Two hundred glorious years of Egmore Eye Hospital, Chennai

Sundaram Natarajan1, Akshay Gopinathan Nair2, M Ananda Babu3, Taraprasad Das4,  
1 Chairman and Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Consultant, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery and Ocular Oncology Services, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Director and Superintendent, Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Govt Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
4 Vice-Chairman, L.V.Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd, 53, Road No. 9, Major Parmeshwaran Road, Wadala (West), Mumbai - 400031. Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Akshay Gopinathan Nair
Consultant, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery and Ocular Oncology Services, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Natarajan S, Nair AG, Babu M A, Das T. Two hundred glorious years of Egmore Eye Hospital, Chennai.Indian J Ophthalmol 2020;68:309-310

How to cite this URL:
Natarajan S, Nair AG, Babu M A, Das T. Two hundred glorious years of Egmore Eye Hospital, Chennai. Indian J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Oct 1 ];68:309-310
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Full Text

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”

-Harry S Truman

The importance of history cannot be downplayed. As Indian ophthalmologists, as a fraternity—knowing our past is crucial. It allows us to look back at our achievements, milestones, and accomplishments and be proud of how we have evolved; despite the inherent hurdles that we as a developing country have historically had to encounter. As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at what an extraordinary landmark year it has been and we must recognize the milestone to celebrate 200 glorious years of the beginning of modern ophthalmology in India as we know it.

A historical reference of an eleventh-century hospital in Tamil Nadu, treating eye ailments can be found in the annals of history. Established by the Chola rulers, the newly established hospital stocked medicines to treat many eye ailments. Other historical documents from the fourteenth and fifteenth century also show many physicians attempting to treat conditions with specific drugs “to stimulate the growth of eyelashes, brighten the lustre of the eyeballs, and clean the pupil.”[1] This journal has already published the immense contribution of King Serfoji II of Thanjavur, who carried out methodical ophthalmic practices between 1798 and 1832. In his practice, he used both European and Indian medicines and also performed occasional cataract surgery. The historical archives to this date maintain the detailed ophthalmic records with over 50 charts and manuscripts having survived over two centuries.[2]

However, these isolated instances of trying to treat eye ailments in a systematic, albeit unscientific way should not hide the true picture that ophthalmology as a branch had not developed methodically in this period. Globally, there were developments that advanced the science of treating eye diseases—the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s changed everything: the soldiers returning home developed trachoma. Being a contagious bacterial infection, this soon became a public health hazard and this epidemic paved the way for John Cunningham Saunders backed by the support of influential London surgeon, Astley Cooper, to do what no other dared to do at the time without facing ridicule. Saunders opened up the first hospital in the world at the time solely devoted to the treatment of eye disease in October 1804.[3]

With the United Kingdom leading the charge on ophthalmology and India being the crown jewel in its empire, it should be of no surprise when the British founded the Madras Eye Infirmary in Madras (Chennai) in 1819.[2] Today, the hospital is called the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital (RIOGOH); more commonly known as “Egmore Eye Hospital” which was established 15 years after the first eye hospital was established in London. RIOGOH, Chennai is now a part of Madras Medical College, the third oldest medical college in India. This is widely recognized as the first concrete step in India toward the scientific practice of ophthalmology in an institutionalized fashion.[4] Following the founding of Egmore Eye Hospital, the Elliot School and Museum in Ophthalmology was started in 1921. This is one of the biggest and exhaustive ophthalmic museums in the world. It is noteworthy that RIOGOH started the first postgraduate education curriculum in India that had students from all over Asia enrolling to study ophthalmology. It is also the place where R. H. Elliot designed his trephine which is used in glaucoma.

Sushruta Sushrut, also known as the “Father of Indian Ophthalmology,” in 600 BCE, described many ocular diseases, as well as several ophthalmic surgical instruments and techniques. Sushruta is considered to be the first cataract surgeon; and even though the first eye hospital was set up in London; India has always been pioneering the discovery and treatment of eye diseases which is why as a nation we must own our history and skill by claiming ourselves as the best destination for ophthalmological treatment in the world.

In the June 1901 edition of The Indian Medical Gazette, Joseph Fayrer wrote, “It is true that as the labours of our profession in India lie scattered over a wide extent of country, but it cannot be that such large experiences are always to remain unnoticed or to lie buried among the records of the past. It is desirable that we should assert ourselves a more prominent position in the published records of our science and give our experiences to the world.”[4] We celebrate 200 years of our medical skill, technique, innovation, and contribution that has cultivated the science of ophthalmology before it was even regarded as a science. We should use this celebration as a reminder of the pride, we should feel waking up every day and adding to our rich history in ophthalmology. We are pioneers of this discipline and we should behave, act, and showcase ourselves as such with class, honor, and professionalism that brought us to this 200th landmark.

This milestone of 200 years of Indian Ophthalmology is the opportune moment to look back at the evolution of Indian Ophthalmology. We have so much to celebrate and to be proud of, it is about time we acknowledged it.


1Bhattacharya S. History of endeavour: Ophthalmology in India. Curr Ind Eye Res 2014;2:82-3.
2Biswas J, Badrinath V, Badrinath SS. Ophthalmic contributions of Raja Serfoji II (1798-1832). Indian J Ophthalmol 2012;60:297-300.
3Available from:[Last accessed on 2018 Dec 01].
4Fayrer J. Ophthalmic notes. Ind Med Gaz 1901;36:234.