Robert Marcus Gunn
Biography of Robert Marcus Gunn
Robert Marcus Gunn was the son of a farmer in Dunnet, in the far northwest of Scotland. He studied medicine at the University of St. Andrew’s and the University of Edinburgh, where he graduated, with distinction, in 1873. As a student here he was influenced by James Syme (1799-1870) and Joseph Lister (1827-1912), and the ophthalmologist Douglas Moray Cooper Lamb Argyll Robertson (1839-1909).
After graduation he was house physician in Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, and also worked in comparative anatomy with Edward Albert Sharpey-Schäfer (1850-1935) at University College, London. He then obtained a job at the Perth District Asylum where he surveyed the retinal appearances of the patients, employing direct ophthalmoscopy, which he had taught himself. In 1874 Marcus Gunn spent 6 months in Vienna, working with Christoph Friedrich Jaeger Ritter von Jaxtthal (1784-1871), Carl Ferdinand Ritter von Arlt (1812-1887) or Karl Stellwag von Carion (1823-1904) as a teacher. In 1876 he returned to Moorfields Eye Hospital as a resident medical officer. In this position he introduced the sterile principles of Joseph Lister, thus obtaining better results in cataract operations.
In 1879 Marcus Gunn went to Australia to collect eye specimens from the indigenous species, particularly marsupials. On his return, he examined the zoological material collected by Charles Darwin’s Challenger expedition.
In 1882 Marcus Gunn obtained a fellowship of the Royal Surgeons, and the next year he was appointed assistant surgeon to the Moorfields Eye Hospital. He was appointed as surgeon in 1888, and when he died in 1909 he was senior surgeon of that hospital. He was an excellent surgeon and introduced systematized teaching of eye disorders.
He was keen on outdoor life, with interests in botany, marine biology, and zoology, spending his holidays collecting fossils. He donated his large collection to the British Museum.