OPHTHALMOLOGY enjoys the longest history of all surgical specialties in the United States, although prior to the mid 19th century, there were, strictly speaking, no true American ophthalmologists. Scattered throughout the country, however, were physicians who devoted an unusually large part of their practice to diseases of the eye. Yet, the very fact that in 1805, the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland adopted a resolution calling for the granting of "special licenses to dentists and oculists to practice in their respective branches, subjecting them to an examination only on the branches they possess" suggest that during this era "oculists" represented an already recognized branch of medicine.
Rutkow IM. Ophthalmologic Surgery. Arch Surg. 2000;135(11):1371. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.11.1371