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Edward Nettleship

Born  1845-03-03
Died  1913-10-30

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English dermatologist and eye surgeon, born March 3, 1845, Kettering, Northamptonshire; died October 30, 1913, Hindhead, Surrey.

Biography of Edward Nettleship

Edward Nettleship's father was a solicitor, his mother an invalid of strong character. Both his parents and his brothers had considerable talents and were involved with music, the arts and sciences. While attending Kettering Grammar School, Nettleship developed an interest in natural history, particularly birds, and was nicknamed by his brothers "Bird-bearing Ned".
His two brothers were Oxford fellows, but the family plans for him was that he should become a farmer. From 1862 he therefore attended the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester and the Royal Veterinary College. His interest went broader, however, and he also obtained medical status as a licentiate of the London Society of Apothecaries, before entering the medical study.

Nettleship worked in the London Hospital under Jonathan Hutchinson (1828-1913), who may have influenced him towards his interest in ophthalmology. Working as a clinical assistant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, he continued his association with Hutchinson and became a close friend of Waren Tay (1843-1927). The major part of his career was later spent as an ophthalmic surgeon and lecturer at St. Thomas's Hospital, where he remained for almost two decades. Besides his hospital duties he had a large private practice in Wimpole Street.

Nettleship was inspector of the metropolitan poor schools and in this capacity he worked on incidence of eye disease and ophthalmia which led to parliamentary reforms.

In addition to his reputation as a scientist, Nettleship was also widely regarded for his postgraduate teaching abilities. He set high standards of clinical observation and documentation. He did not suffer fools gladly but his enthusiasm and personality attracted the best students.

In 1902 he retired from private praxis and moved to his country hone in Hindhead in order spend more time on scientific work. He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1912. The Nettleship Medal of the Ophthalmological Society was established in his honour.

A list of his works is in: Julius Hirschberg, Geschichte der Augenheilkunde, in Handbuch der gesamten Augenheilkunde, 2nd edition, volume 14, page 242.


  • On oedema, or cystic disease, of the retina.
    Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital Reports, and Journal of Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery, London, VII.
  • Embolism of central artery of retina.
    Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital Reports, and Journal of Ophthalmic Medicine and Surgery, London, VII.
  • The Students Guide to Diseases of the Eye.
    London, 1879. 6th edition, 1900.
    The standard undergraduate textbook in its time.
  • On a rare form of primary opacity of the cornea.
    Archives of Ophthalmology, Chicago, VIII.
  • Observations of visual purple in human eye.
    Journal of Physiology, Cambridge, II.
  • Treasury of Human Inheritance.
  • On Some Hereditary Diseases of the Eye.
    A classical account of early concepts concerning Ophthalmological genetics.
  • B. Jay:
    Remembrances of things past.
    Survey of Ophthalmology, Boston, 1983, 27/4: 264-268.
  • J. B. Lawford:
    British Masters of Ophthalmology. Edward Nettleship.
    British Journal of Ophthalmology, London, 1923, 7: 1-9.

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