Hippocrates first defines glaucoma

First mentioned in Hippocrates’ Aphorisms, glaucoma was described as ‘glaykoseis’ – a blindness in the elderly. 2, 3

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400BCE - 1600CE

The term, glaucoma, appears in many early medical texts but with little to no detailed information. 2

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Richard Banister recognises intraocular pressure (IOP)

English oculist Banister establishes the increased pressure in the eye as a sign of ocular disease. 2


Michel Brisseau discovers the anatomical site of cataract

This discovery accelerated the search for the site of glaucoma, and lead to further investigation into the differences between cataract and glaucoma. 2

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Site of cataract © See page for author, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Johann Platner notices hardening of the eye due to glaucoma

This built on previous work in the field and was a clear reference to elevated IOP. 2

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Johann Platner

1741 - 1826CE

Charles Saint-Yves and Carl-Heinrich Weller identify clinical features of acute glaucoma

These included recurring attacks of blurred vision which are known to precede advanced glaucoma. 2

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Publication by Charles Saint-Yves © Sinice, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1830 - 1845CE

William Mackenzie defines the difference between acute and chronic glaucoma

This discovery then led to chronic glaucoma being described across 6 progressive stages, and a recommendation from Mackenzie to use a form of surgery (posterior sclerotomy) to relieve hardness in the eye due to glaucoma. 2

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William Mackenzie © John Dixon Comrie, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1741 - 1854CE

Eduard Jaeger, Albrecht von Graefe and Adolf Weber make great strides in our understanding of glaucoma

In a year of great progress, Jaeger was the first to place a record the appearance of a round structure around the optic nerve (glaucomatous disc) in glaucoma. 2

Just a few months later von Graefe observed the prominence of small anatomical projections (papilla) in glaucoma – a useful indicator for elevated IOP at the time. This led Weber to investigate further, leading to several significant contributions later in life which transformed our understanding of the mechanism of glaucoma. 2

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Albrecht von Graefe © UZH Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1856 - 1858CE

Albrecht von Graefe and Louis De Wecker discover that removing a portion of tissue from the iris (iridectomy) was effective in managing acute glaucoma

Two years later De Wecker presented another surgical procedure, sclerotomy, for chronic glaucoma. 4

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Louis De Wecker © Philgayat, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Ludwig Laqueur, a student of von Graefe, uses eserine (physotigmine) as the first ever glaucoma drug

The Efik tribe, who lived in what is now known as the Calabar province in Nigeria, used the calabar bean – or the “ordeal bean” to dilate the pupils. Laqueur noted that it also lowered IOP and broke one of the few true ophthalmic emergencies, angle closure attacks.

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Ludwig Laqueur © Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Allvar Gullstrand and Carl Zeiss invent the slit lamp, an important tool for detecting eye disease, using the Nernst electric bulb

Numerous adaptations were made in the following years, leading to slit lamps remaining an important tool in glaucoma diagnosis. 5

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Image by Aamir Kamal Via The Royal College of Ophthalmologists

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1970s CE

Peter Gordon Watson and John Cairns develop the trabeculectomy surgical procedure

Trabeculectomy continues to be a mainstay in glaucoma surgery today. 6

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Jules Francois, Wolfgang Leydhecker and Erik Greve establish the European Glaucoma Society

The first ever invitation for a European Glaucoma Society meeting was sent to glaucoma specialists representing all European countries. 7

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Ghent, the city where the founders met


Rangaswamy Srinivasan and Stephen Trokel perform the first photorefractive keratectomy, a procedure using a laser to correct eye defects. 8

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Excimer laser © IoOALP, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1982 - 1996CE

Bito and Camras discover the role of prostaglandin analogues in glaucoma management

This was discovered incidentally whilst investigating the inflammatory cascade. The pair discovered the role of this mainstay of glaucoma management incidentally, whilst investigating the inflammatory cascade. 9


LASIK (Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), first invented by Ioannis Palikaris is made available to the public

The procedure, first developed a decade earlier, is now the procedure of choice for correcting refractive errors. 8

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In memory of David Epstein who made critical contributions to glaucoma in many areas

The focus of his research was identifying targets within the trabecular meshwork for therapeutic intervention. 10


There have been many, who in pursuit of a life free from vision loss, have contributed to our collective understanding of glaucoma.

We’ve made a start but need your help to complete the history of ground-breaking progress in glaucoma. Get in touch with the name(s) and discover(ies) of pioneers. Submissions will all be assessed for inclusion on this page.


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Santen is committed to supporting people with glaucoma and their ophthalmologists

For over a century, Santen has been committed to protecting the precious sense of sight from diseases like glaucoma, which is growing in prevalence and predicted to affect over seven million people in Europe by 2040. 11

Faced with issues around adherence, often caused by ocular surface disease (OSD),12 ophthalmologists work with medical treatment options that have stayed broadly the same for the last 25 years.

We’re not afraid to challenge the status quo in glaucoma management. In pursuit of better eye health for all, our long-term mission is to build a portfolio that supports ophthalmologists in meeting the diverse needs of their patient population and address these challenges.