The Great Debate at the Origins of Ophthalmology in the 18th Century: Couching versus Extraction, the Perspectives of Samuel Sharp and Percival Pott

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Faazil Kassam

Keywords

cataract, phacoemulsification, couching, Samuel Sharp, Percival Pott

Abstract

The intricate and elegant phacoemulsification technique that is practiced around the world today has a rich history and fascinating evolution. Prior to the 18th century, the only known approach to treating cataract was through couching, a technique that involved depressing the lens into the vitreous of the eye using a needle. Following the introduction of the extraction, a long and vigorous debate ensued regarding which was the superior method. Two prominent English surgeons who were involved in this debate were Samuel Sharp and Sir Percival Pott. The clash between Sharp and Pott was not just of ideas, but of personalities.