- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Herman Snellen

Born 1834
Died 1908

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Dutch ophthalmologist, born February 19, 1834, Zeist (Utrecht); died January 18, 1908.

Biography of Herman Snellen

Herman Snellen was the son of the well known and popular physician,Dr. F. A. Snellen. He studied medicine in Utrecht under Gerard Johann Mulder (1802-1880), Jacobus Ludovicus Conradus Schroeder van der Kolk (1797-1862) and Franz Cornelis Donders (1818-1889). He received his medical doctorate at Utrecht in 1858.

Snellen settled in Utrecht and soon turned his attention to ophthalmology. The year he obtained his doctorate he received a position as assistant physician in the ophthalmological clinic – Nederlandsch Gasthuis voor Ooglijders – in Utrecht. In 1862 he became primary physician and in 1884 director of the institution, of which he was leader until 1903. Besides this he pursued an academical career. Already in 1858, the year of his promotion, he was habilitated for ophthalmology and in 1877 was appointed professor of this discipline at the University og Utrecht.

Snellen left behind a very comprehensive work in his special field, among them works on astigmatismus, glaucoma, inflammation, diseases of the retina and connective tissue. He also concerned himself with the calculations of eyeglasses, as well as ophthalmological surgery. In 1899 he directed an international congress of ophthalmologist in Utrecht, and that year laid down his professorship, while still being scientifically active intil his death in 1908.

Today Snellen is still remembered for the Snellen chart. Test types were invented in 1843 by Heinrich Kuechler (1811-1873) and were improved by the Vienna oculist Eduard Jaeger Ritter von Jaxtthal (1818-1884) in 1854. Shortly after this Herman Snellen invented his chart of square shaped letters. This chart soon gained acceptance in all civilized countries.

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