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Notable figures in eye care - Jacques Daviel

Jacques Daviel (1693 –1762)

Jacques Daviel was a French ophthalmologist and surgeon born on the 11th of August, 1693, in La Barre-en-Ouche, France. His first foray into the world of medicine began in Rouen, where he chose an apprenticeship under the supervision of his uncle to start his surgical studies. Daviel then headed to Paris, where he joined the Hôtel-Dieu hospital to complete his education. Early in his career, Daviel volunteered as a surgeon to help with patients fighting the plague in Marseille. Through his work, he was appointed the Master Surgeon of Marseille.

From 1728, Daviel narrowed his studies to ophthalmology and in 1749, he was appointed oculist to King Louis XV. Daviel spent the rest of his career studying the eye and practising the first experimental surgeries to remove cataracts. Daviel had a stroke in early 1762 and died later that year on the 30th of September while on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Jacques Daviel's contributions to eye care

Jacques Daviel had a major impact on eye care knowledge during his lifetime. As early as 1728, he decided to devote himself to eye diseases and focused much of his research on cataract surgery. He took advantage of the opportunity available to him at the time to perform cataract operations on cadavers.

However, it was by chance and by going against his knowledge of the time that Daviel made his most significant discovery. Until 1741, Daviel was convinced, as in ancient times, that the crystalline lens was the "seat of vision". Cataract operations essentially consisted of lowering the lens using a needle. But in 1741, a case in which the lens could not be repaired prompted him to remove it. Against his expectations, the patient's eyesight improved.

Daviel then devoted all his energy to improving his method of removing the crystalline lens to treat cataracts. His efforts culminated in 1752 when he published an article detailing his operating technique. Entitled "A New Method of Curing Cataracts by Extracting the Crystalline Lens", featured at the “Académie de Chirurgie” in Paris, revolutionised how cataracts were treated.

Other notable achievements of Jacques Daviel 

Beyond his groundbreaking research regarding cataract surgery, Jacques Daviel was also accomplished and recognised with the following distinctions during and after his career.

  • Decorated by Louis XV with the cross of Saint Roch 
  • Associate member of the Paris Academy of Surgery 
  • Elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 
  •  Since 1894, a rue Daviel has paid tribute to him in the Butte-aux-cailles district of Paris
  • The Hôtel Daviel in Marseille is also a tribute to this great man of science and medicine
  • The forecourt of the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Marseille has a bust representing this great oculist
  • The Jacques Daviel secondary school in Barre-en-Ouche bears his name in tribute to this former oculist to the King of France
  • A stone statue also pays tribute to him in Bernay
  • Under the coordination of the French postal administration, Albert Decaris designed a tribute stamp bearing the effigy of Daviel

Final word

Daviel laid the groundwork for other famous eye care experts to continue research on how to improve the quality of vision and life of people with cataracts and other eye diseases.

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