On December 5, 1906, S. Rodman Irvine was born in Salt Lake City to A. Ray and Margaret Irvine. He graduated from Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif, in 1928 and from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, in 1932. After his internship, he initially did not get an ophthalmology residency at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, but after a year's residency in neurology he was accepted on his second attempt.
After residency, he joined his father's practice in Los Angeles, Calif, but soon went to India, where he gained a great deal of practical experience working with Colonel Wright at the British Government Hospital in Madras from 1936 to 1937. He visited the major eye clinics in Europe on his way home and then settled back into practice in Los Angeles. He and his father (and later his brother, Sandy) joined the faculty at the University of Southern California. Through the beneficence of one of his patients, Estelle Doheny, they established the Doheny Eye Foundation at University of Southern California. As the University of California, Los Angeles, developed, he focused his attention there to build the eye service as its clinical chair. When the ophthalmology department developed to the point of a full-time teaching institution, he decided to remain in private practice, but did continue to serve as a clinical professor while handing over the reins of the department to Bradley Straatsma. The teaching of residents was one of Rod's great loves, and his affection and respect for them was reciprocated. They often met at his home for dinner and a swim.
For modern ophthalmologists reared in a time of subspecialization, the variety of Rod Irvine's interests and practice is a wonder and revelation. He was best known for his cataract surgery in which, from a clinical study of 2000 patients, he recognized the correlation between vitreous strands in the wound and macular edema, the syndrome that now bears his name. At the same time, however, he was analyzing anterior chamber taps in uveitis. He was a charter member of the International Glaucoma Society and of the Pathology Club (later known as the Verhoeff Society). He was a member of the Squint Society and wrote his American Ophthalmological Society thesis on the φ phenomenon. He studied the use of diathermy in retinal detachment surgery and its effects on the vitreous. When invited by Alan Woods to be a visiting professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Baltimore, Md, in 1950, he performed experimental work with rabbits on the effect of steroids on corneal scarring while teaching the residents optics and refraction. He was not a dilettante, but rather was at the forefront of knowledge, publishing in peer-reviewed journals in each of these fields. He believed that careful study of the patients in a private practice often provided the best laboratory and source of new knowledge. He was a true renaissance man in ophthalmology at a time and in a way that we can now only admire and envy.
When he reached the age of 63 years, he felt he should retire from his surgical practice; he never wanted to do a case someone else could do better. He moved to Laguna Beach, where he continued a consulting practice and joined the clinical faculty at the University of California, Irvine. He continued teaching there until he retired fully a few years before his death.
Rod is survived by his 3 sons, William, Alexander, and Robert.
Alexander Irvine. S. Rodman Irvine, MD (1906-1999). Arch Ophthalmol. 2000;118(6):863. doi:10.1001/archopht.118.6.863