Frank William Newell, MD (1916-1998) | JAMA Ophthalmology | JAMA Network
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May 1999

Frank William Newell, MD (1916-1998)

Arch Ophthalmol. 1999;117(5):703. doi:10.1001/archopht.117.5.703

Every aspect of ophthalmology has been left poorer by the death of Frank Newell. His direct contributions to scholarship by his original publications and his textbook are balanced by his more indirect, but no less valuable, contributions as editor of the American Journal of Ophthalmology. His editorials contributed greatly to the advancement of ophthalmology as a profession and as a science. His support of the National Eye Institute in his American Journal of Ophthalmology editorials bore fruit. Particularly significant was his advocacy of training grants and career development awards. His use of such funds in his own department was exemplary, and at least 3 current department heads began their careers with such backing. His knowledge and experience aided the large number of organizations of which he was a member and chair.

As the first chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Chicago, and as chair of the Section of Ophthalmology before that, Frank used enviable wisdom and exceptional tact to steer his faculty toward the advances in clinical and basic ophthalmology that maximized their individual abilities.

Clinical care at the University of Chicago was given on the basis of need with no other considerations. There was a steady stream of patients with unusual problems referred by physicians from the greater Chicago area and beyond. There was never confusion on the identity of the responsible physician for any given patient, but inpatient rounds were conducted by a different faculty member each day. Hence, discussion on the care of an individual patient was welcomed, but one could be sure that Frank had a good reason for any procedure he employed. There was a clinical conference on one afternoon each week for presentation and discussion of patients with special problems.

The uniqueness of Chicago ophthalmology lay in the fact that conduct of research in addition to practice was expected of each faculty member. There were no constraints placed on research time, and teaching followed the specialty lines of the faculty members. The resultant environment provided fertile ground for innovation, and the publications from the department testified to Frank Newell's success.

It will be a long day before we see so eloquent, so forceful, and so knowledgeable an advocate for ophthalmic science and practice.

Personal Data

BSMed, Loyola University, Chicago, Ill, 1938; MD, Loyola University School of Medicine, Chicago, Ill, 1940; Intern, Ancker City and County Hospital, St Paul, Minn, 1939-1940; Teaching fellow, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1942; MSOphth, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Minnesota, 1942; First Lieutenant Major, US Army, 1943-1946; Consultant, Ophthalmology, Seine Base Section, American Expeditionary Forces, 1944-1945; Research fellow, Department of Ophthalmology, Northwestern University, Chicago, 1947-1950; Associate, Department of Ophthalmology, Northwestern University, 1950-1953. Associate Professor of Surgery, 1953-1955; Professor of Surgery, Chairman, Section of Ophthalmology, 1955-1970; RAYMOND professor ophthalmology and Chairman, Department of Ophthalmology, 1970-1981; Professor Emeritus, 1981-1998, University of Chicago, Chicago.


American Medical Association, Illinois State Medical Society, Chicago Medical Society, Chicago Society History of Medicine, Chicago Institute of Medicine, American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Honor key, 1953; Association for Research in Ophthalmology, chairman, Midwest section, 1952-1953; Chicago Ophthalmological Society (Councillor, 1952-1953; Secretary-Treasurer, 1953-1956; President, 1957-1958); Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology; Sigma Xi; American Ophthalmological Society, President, 1986-1987; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Society of Experimental Biology and Medicine; Société Francaise d'Oftalmologie; Society of Medical Consultants to the Armed Forces; American Association of Workers for the Blind; Central Illinois Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Society (honorary); Montana State Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology Society (honorary); Kansas City Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Society (honorary).

Other Contributions to Ophthalmology

American Journal of Ophthalmology, editorial board member, 1954, Associate Editor, 1962, Editor-in-Chief, 1965-1991; Survey of Ophthalmology, Editor-in-Chief, 1956-1958; Pediatrics Digest, editorial board, 1962; National Committee for Research in Ophthalmology and Blindness, Secretary-Treasurer, 1956; National Council to Combat Blindness, Scientific Advisory Board, 1958; National Institute of Neurologic Diseases and Blindness (scientific counselor, 1959-1962; chairman of the board of counselors, 1961-1962); Hadley School for the Blind, Board of Trustees, 1959; National Society for Prevention of Blindness, Board of Directors, 1959; Department of the Army, Consultant to the Surgeon General, 1947; World Federation of Neurology, Problem Commission in Neuro-ophthalmology, Secretary, Western Hemisphere.