Meyer-Schwickerath survived World War II serving as a paramedic; then a knee injury kept him from going to the front. Obtaining his medical degree soon after the end of the war, he was asked to supervise a medical student who had developed a macular burn while viewing a solar eclipse. From 1945 on, Meyer-Schwickerath’s goal was to harness the sun’s rays to produce a controlled burn in the retina, but found this impractical. He developed the first model of the carbon arc photocoagulator at home using a few lenses and mirrors. By the end of 1946, he was able to perform nicely- localized photocoagulation in the eye of a rabbit within one to two seconds. I observed his use of a high intensity carbon arc in 1957 when I was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force.
When Dr. Hans Littmann of Zeiss Laboratories soon thereafter developed the first xenon arc photocoagulator, Meyer-Schwickerath quickly applied it in the clinic, first treating a peripheral horseshoe tear, which resulted in a good reaction in the retina. He subsequently developed treatment protocols for macular holes, intraocular tumors, diabetic retinopathy, Eales disease, Coats disease, and von Hippel–Lindau angiomatosis. His contribution was worthy of the Nobel Prize.
Submitted by William S. Tasman from the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.