36. Practicing medicine and music II: Ophthalmology and music

L. P. Hwi, J. W. Ting


Cecil Cameron Ewing (1925-2006) was a lecturer and head of ophthalmology at the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout his Canadian career, he was an active researcher who published several articles on retinoschisis and was the editor of the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology. For his contributions to Canadian ophthalmology, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society awarded Ewing a silver medal. Throughout his celebrated medical career, Ewing maintained his passion for music. His love for music led him to be an active member in choir, orchestra, opera and chamber music in which he sang and played the piano, violin and viola. He was also the director of the American Liszt Society and a member for over 40 years.
The connection between music and ophthalmology exists as early as the 18th Century. John Taylor (1703-1772) was an English surgeon who specialized in eye diseases. On the one hand, Taylor was a scientist who contributed to ophthalmology by publishing books on ocular physiology and diseases, and by advancing theories of strabismus. On the other hand, Taylor was a charlatan who traveled throughout Europe and blinded many patients with his surgeries. Taylor’s connection to music was through his surgeries on two of the most famous Baroque composers: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and George Frederick Handel (1685-1759). Bach had a painful eye disorder and after two surgeries by Taylor, Bach was blind. Handel had poor or absent vision prior to Taylor’s surgery, and his vision did not improve after surgery. The connection between ophthalmology and music spans over three centuries from the surgeries of Taylor to the musical passion of Ewing.
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Jackson DM. Bach, Handel, and the Chevalier Taylor. Med Hist 1968; 12(4):385-93.
Zegers RH. The Eyes of Johann Sebastian Bach. Arch Ophthalmol 2005; 123(10):1427-30.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25011/cim.v30i4.2796


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