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February 1, 2008

Charles J. Campbell, MD (1926-2007)

Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(2):290. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2007.69

Charles J. Campbell, MD, a pioneer in the development and clinical application of the first laser to be successfully used in the treatment of ocular diseases, died peacefully at age 80 years on March 1, 2007, in Vero Beach, Florida, surrounded by his devoted family. He was a former chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Charles J. Campbell, MD

Charles J. Campbell, MD

Dr Campbell's professional career as a dedicated physician-scientist was predicated on superb academic preparation. His doctor of medicine degree from George Washington University, Washington, DC, had been preceded by a master of science degree in optics from the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, following undergraduate training at Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio. He next engaged in high-altitude photometry research while serving as a captain in the US Air Force Aeromedical Laboratory at White Sands, New Mexico, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in 1952 to 1954. Throughout residency training at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute, Columbia University Medical Center during 1954 to 1957, Dr Campbell continued his research in optics and earned a doctor of medical science degree at Columbia University with a thesis entitled “An Experimental Investigation of the Size Constancy Phenomenon.”

As a new faculty member in 1957, Dr Campbell was appointed director of the Knapp Memorial Laboratory of Physiological Optics at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute, succeeding LeGrand Hardy, MD. The Knapp Memorial Laboratory of Physiological Optics, previously renowned for development of the Hardy-Rand-Rittler pseudoisochromatic plates for testing color vision, would soon become resurgent under the new leadership. By initiating a subspecialty retina clinic in 1958, Dr Campbell was able to combine clinical observations and laboratory investigations into a synthesis that culminated in his remarkable development of a prototypical ophthalmic ruby laser that, in his hands, proved to be an effective alternative to invasive surgery in a variety of blinding retinal diseases. Continuous refinement resulted in an affordable compact air-cooled instrument that ushered in the golden age of the laser in ophthalmology and subsequently in many other medical and surgical disciplines. Soon thereafter, Dr Campbell initiated a course at the American Academy of Ophthalmology with colleagues Robert Ellsworth, MD, and Harold Spalter, MD, to introduce the potential of laser therapy to ophthalmological practitioners and trainees worldwide.

An indefatigable worker, Dr Campbell was always the first faculty member to arrive at the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute in the morning and the last to leave at night. A master of concentration, observation, and documentation, the ideal assets for a consummate physician-scientist and teacher, Dr Campbell was also a superb ophthalmic diagnostician and surgeon. His success as a clinician was complemented by his gentle, caring disposition, which earned the trust of his patients and respect from his professional colleagues. Ever the inventor, Dr Campbell, in collaboration with engineers at the American Optical Co, Southbridge, Massachusetts, developed the first successful American-made slitlamp and applanation tonometer in addition to a new indirect ophthalmoscope.

By excelling in the academic triad of teaching, research, and clinical practice, Dr Campbell advanced rapidly through the professorial ranks and in 1974 was appointed chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and director of the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute. After a vigorous 14-year stewardship of the department, Dr Campbell retired as emeritus professor in 1987.

Dr Campbell was an active contributor to ophthalmological organizations, including being on the editorial board of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, an advisor to the National Research Council Committee on Vision of the National Academy of Sciences, on the advisory committee of Fight for Sight, on the board of directors of the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, and an active member and officer of the New York Ophthalmological Society. He also served on the board of trustees of The Presbyterian Hospital, New York, and of Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York. In recognition of his achievements as an outstanding teacher, author, and researcher, Dr Campbell received the Lucien Howe Gold Medal in 1976 awarded by the Buffalo Ophthalmologic Club.

Dr Campbell was elected to the American Ophthalmological Society in 1968, his thesis not unexpectedly exploring the newly revealed ocular effects of laser energy. He served as a member of the Committee on Theses of the American Ophthalmological Society during 1974 and 1975 and then as chairman of the committee in 1976. He next served as a member of the council of the American Ophthalmological Society during 1979 to 1982 and as chairman of the council in 1983.

Dr Campbell's legacy of dedicated service to the Department of Ophthalmology and the Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute of the Columbia University Medical Center, his vision-saving technological achievements, and his gentlemanly presence will long be remembered and cherished. We extend our deepest condolences to his devoted wife Mary Catherine, his children Dr Catherine M. Campbell, Barbara I. Campbell-Kopec, and Charles A. Campbell III, and his grandchildren.

Correspondence: Dr Spalter, Edward S. Harkness Institute of Ophthalmology, New York–Presbyterian Medical Center, 635 W 165th St, New York, NY 10032 (hfs02@health.state.ny.us).