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Special Communication
March 2014

Adolph Barkan (1845-1935), European Ophthalmologist in San Francisco

Author Affiliations
  • 1Retired from Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;132(3):346-349. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.5825

Adolph Barkan, a mid-19th century Central European–born and –trained ophthalmologist, spent almost half his nearly 91 years in a very successful career on the West Coast of the United States. His activities included intimate involvement in the development of a private medical school and with this school’s acquisition by Stanford University as its medical school. In retirement, he founded, financed, and stocked a large medical history library at that university. In the 1890s, Siegfried Czapski, the developer of the Carl Zeiss corneal biomicroscope, the direct precursor of today’s slitlamp, incorporated Barkan’s suggestion that Czapski replace the planned monoscopic binocular microscope with a stereoscopic binocular one, an essential modification of the device. This Zeiss invention lacked only the slit illumination of today’s instrument. Comments he wrote in a memoir-diary during World War I explain how he came to the decision to stray and to stay so far from his roots.

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