Cambridge Ophthalmological Symposium


Louise Richards
COS Secretariat
Healthology Ltd.

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Facilitated by Cambridge Eye Trust

History of the Cambridge Ophthalmological Symposium

The Cambridge Ophthalmological Symposium is unique among ophthalmological gatherings. It is a two day residential meeting which brings together basic scientists and clinicians to discuss a well defined topic in detail under the chairmanship of one of the leaders in that field.

The conference has always been centred in St John's College which was founded by Lady Margaret Beaufort, (mother of Henry VII) whose descendants formed the Tudor dynasty. Its fine sixteenth and seventeenth century courts are linked to the later nineteenth century Gothic "New Court" by the picturesque Bridge of Sighs, and within the College can also be found the oldest surviving secular building in Cambridge, The School of Pythagoras, dating from about 1200. It was the St John's College Boat Club which first challenged Oxford to a race, so originating the annual University Boat Race on the Thames.


Marjorie Perrers TaylorMarjorie Perrers-Taylor (Fig 1) was an ophthalmologist who had trained at the Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital but had worked in Cambridge throughout her career, including the whole of the Second World War. The consultants at Addenbrooke's Hospital had been called up for military service and so she took on the daunting task of running the eye department until they returned. She continued working in the clinics thereafter and alongside a considerable private practice she also found the time and energy to undertake some important research with Dr Diana Brinkley and Professor Mitchell on the effect of ionising radiation on the eye.
She was a formidable lady who gave firm and direct instructions to her patients in such a way that many would not deviate from them for the rest of their lives. She was highly respected and inspired such devotion and loyalty from her patients that when she died in April 1970 a memorial fund was established in her honour.

Prof Hans GoldmanThis fund and a contribution from her family enabled the first Cambridge Symposium to be held under the auspices of the University of Cambridge on the 13th and 14th of September 1971 at St John's College Cambridge. The chosen subject for the first symposium was Glaucoma under the chairmanship of Prof Hans Goldmann. (Fig 2)

The format of the meeting had been suggested by Dr Ruth Porter who had organised the famous CIBA Symposia of the 1960's and these principles continue to define unique appeal of the symposia.

The meeting should discuss one aspect of a broader subject in depth
The meeting must be residential and social so that everyone has the opportunity to discuss the various points brought up outside the meeting venue.
The chairman must be universally respected in the field of study
There must be an equal amount of time allocated to discussion as to the delivery of the material
The first day should be confined to the Basic Science of the topic to be discussed. The Basic Scientists should the very best people in the field even though the topic might be very peripheral to their interests
The second day should be largely clinical but related to the science of the previous day
The proceedings are published

All the papers delivered at the first and the subsequent meeting were published as an edition of The British Journal of Ophthalmology by permission of the Editor Sir Stewart Duke Elder and current proceedings are published in "Eye" the scientific journal of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

The purpose of the symposium is, with the help of contributors of international repute, to take an aspect of ophthalmology, however small, and interrogate it in depth so that those involved in basic science research can hear the views of clinicians and even more importantly the clinicians can come to understand the basic science behind their practice. It has, as a consequence, brought together over the years the very best and the most productive of those people involved in vision. The format of the meeting allows time for discussion within and outside the meeting and many new cooperative ventures have emerged from these contacts since the symposium's inception.

Good company, good food and music have always had a part in the social activities of the meeting and many memorable pre-dinner concerts have been given by professional and local musicians many of whom have been participants in the meeting.

The Cambridge Ophthalmological Symposium is a registered Charity No 265140 operating under the direction of the Cambridge Eye Trust.

Scientific Organisers

  Mr Peter Watson 1970 to 1996
Mr Tony Moore 1996 to 2001
Mr Martin Snead 2001 to 2009
Prof Keith Martin and Mr Martin Snead   2010 - present

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