Robert Walter Doyne

Today is the birthday of Robert Walter Doyne.

Born on May 15, 1857, and was the 2nd son of late Reverend P. W. Doyne. Educated at Bristol medical school and St. George hospital in London. He then entered the medical service of the Navy. But after marriage in 1885, he had settled in Oxford, devoting himself to Ophthalmology.

Robert Walter Doyne
Robert Walter Doyne

At that time, there was neither an Ophthalmic surgeon nor a clinic in the city. After many difficulties, he founded Oxford Eye Hospital. He was an extraordinary clinical observer and some of his observations are given below.

Doyne’s cataract (discoid cataract):

In 1906, Nettleship and Ogilvie published an extensive study of the occurrence of congenital cataract in the Coppock family. The first observation on this familial anomaly was made by Doyne, who had the opportunity of examining the first, second and third, and possibly fourth, cases in this family between 1888 and 1896. Members of the family were affected by a definite and peculiar type of stationary congenital cataract, which showed but slight variation in clinical appearance. It was a disk-shaped opacity of steel grey colour in focal light. Furthermore, opacity made the fundus invisible or, at best, only dimly discernible.

Doyne choroiditis (genetic trait resulting in retinal degeneration and retinal drusen):

In 1899, he first described an English family with a condition which he called choroiditis, and which was subsequently known as Doyne’s honeycomb degeneration of the retina. His first description was brief and stressed the familial nature of the condition. Choroiditis noted in four sisters and their father and one of his brothers and the paternal grandmother. There was a honeycomb appearance of the fundus with white spots affecting the macular region of the disc. Eleven years later, a female cousin of the same family was also affected. He thought of making copies of the pedigree and circulating to his colleagues as the family was dispersed all over the country. There were two families which he was trying to link together: Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Also read Brain behind bunch of eponyms.

Doyne’s conjunctivitis (a form of conjunctive blepharitis), Doyne’s honeycomb macular dystrophy, and Doyne Iritis (grey precipitate found on iris), and also invented a number of appliances including, stereoscopes, tonometers and retinoscopes. He was the first person to describe small breaks in Bruch’s membrane. Also called Angiloid streaks (Knapp streaks or Knapp striae) by Herman Jakob Knapp after few years. He also described pseudo-cataract (so-called lens with double focus). Wrote “Notes on the more common diseases of the eye”.

He died at his residence in Woodstock Road, Oxford, on August 30th, 1916, leaving a widow and two sons, of whom one – Philip Geoffrey Doyne, FRCS. Two years after his death, Doyne memorial lecture and medal was established which even today remains as one of the top awards in British Ophthalmology.