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Georg Joseph Beer

Born 1763
Died 1821

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Austrian ophthalmologist, born December 23, 1763, Vienna; died April 11, 1821, Vienna.

Biography of Georg Joseph Beer

Georg Joseph Beer first studied theology, but soon changed to medicine, receiving his doctorate in 1786. Under Joseph Barth (1745-1818) he devoted himself with particular enthusiasm to ophthalmology, without neglecting his other studies. Thus, for some time he successfully conducted investigations on the developmental history of anatomy. His relationship with Barth, however, never seems to have been very close; he later referred to his four years with Barth as his years of torture (Barth - mentor and tormentor). Their relationship ended with a final break caused by Barth's favouring of Johann Adam Schmidt (1759-1809), of future fame as an ophthalmologist.

Out of Barth's realm Beer began his own and independent work as an ophthalmologist. This was not at all easy, however, as Barth did his best to obstruct his work and even publicly expressed his doubts of Beers qualifications. Despite this Beer was able to build a successful practice, and became a popular teacher, attracting several of the next generation of giants in the field. Among his students were Philipp Franz von Walther, Carl Ferdinand von Graefe (1787-1840), Johann Nepomuk Fischer (1777-1847), Konrad Johann Martin Langenbeck (1776-1851), Anton von Rosas (1791-1855), Maximilian Joseph von Chelius (1794-1876), Francesco Flarer (1791-1850), Karl Christoph Friedrich von Jaeger (1775-1858), and Christoph Friedrich Jaeger Ritter von Jaxtthal (1784-1871) - his future son in Law.

His teaching activity took on such proportions and was so highly reputed, that i 1812 the government decided to establish an extraordinary chair of ophthalmology - to which Beer was appointed. Unfortunately he was not able to exercise his duties in this chair for a very long time, as he in 1818 suffered a stroke that incapacitated him for work, and which caused his death in 1821.

Beer was undisputedly one of the gurus of ophthalmology in his time, and must be reckoned as one of the more prominent representatives of this discipline. Unable to liberate himself from the peculiar physiologic-pathological views of his time, he strived to liberate ophthalmology from the grip of strictly dogmatic views, and to found it on a solid basis of careful observations. His textbook of ophthalmology was to have a great impact on this medical speciality. His works on the history of ophthalmology, however, were coldly received and leave much to be desired, as he judged all previous epochs on an absolute scale against the most update of works in the field.

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