Allvar Gullstrand

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Landskrona, Sweden
Birth Sign
Landskrona, Sweden

Allvar Gullstrand was a renowned Swedish ophthalmologist and optician who won the ‘Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine’ in 1911 for his research on the eye’s light-refracting technique. He is the only ophthalmologist to have been a recipient of the ‘Nobel Prize’ for his work in the field of ophthalmology. Two additional ophthalmologists who received the Nobel Prize, Fritz Pregl and Walter Hess, were not associated with ophthalmology or vision. Gullstrand used physical mathematics procedures to investigate optical images as well as the way light is refracted by the eye. He described the cornea’s structure in detail. He is also well-known for his research on the optical defect known as astigmatism and for his efforts to improve corrective lenses for those who have undergone cataract surgery. His seminal research on improving the’slit lamp instrument’ or ‘ophthalmoscope’ and focal illumination procedures, particularly those performed with the’slit lamp instrument,’ had a significant impact on the field of practical ophthalmology. As a member of the ‘Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’, he served on the academy’s ‘Nobel Physics Committee. He expressed reservations about Albert Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ and thus used his position to prevent Einstein from receiving a ‘Nobel Prize in Physics’ for the theory.

Childhood & Adolescence

He was born in Landskrona, Sweden, on June 5, 1862, to doctors Pehr Alfred Gullstrand and Sofia Mathilda née Korsell. His father was the chief medical officer for the municipality.

He attended schools in Landskrona and Jönköping and graduated in 1880. He then relocated to Uppsala and enrolled at the country’s oldest university, ‘Uppsala University’. He continued his studies at the university until 1885, when he moved to Vienna to study otoscopy, ophthalmoscopy, and laryngoscopy for a year.

He then relocated to Stockholm and continued his medical studies, graduating in 1888. He joined the ophthalmology clinic at Stockholm’s ‘Seraphim Hospital’ and began working as an assistant to Johan Widmark in order to specialize in ophthalmology.

He earned his doctorate in 1890 after submitting his thesis on ‘Bidrag till astigmatismens teori’ (Contribution to astigmatism’s theory).

Career of Allvar

In 1891, he was appointed Lecturer in Opthalmology at Stockholm’s ‘Karolinska Institutet.’ Simultaneously, he worked as a junior administrator for the ‘Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare’ (‘ Medicinalstyrelsen’), practiced privately, and worked in a public outpatient department (OPD).

Gullstrand was appointed the first chair and professor of ophthalmology at Sweden’s prestigious ‘Uppsala University’ in 1894, where he had previously studied. The fact that he was appointed by this prestigious university without having to apply for the position was a tremendous honor in and of itself.

He remained a member of numerous international societies, including the Heidelberg-based ‘German Ophthalmological Society.’ He joined the society in 1897, regularly attended meetings, and later became a member of the society’s ‘Board of Directors’ in 1912. In 1927, he received the society’s ‘Graefe Medal,’ which is presented every ten years.

Gullstrand’s three works contained conclusive evidence for the theory he developed in his thesis ‘Bidrag till astigmatismens teori’.

These include ‘Allgemeine Theorie der monochromatischen Aberrationen und ihre zukünftigen Ergebnisse für die Ophthalmologie’ in 1900 (awarded by the ‘Swedish Medical Association’ and the ‘Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences’); ‘Die reelle optische Abbildung’ in 1906; and ‘Die optische Abbildung in heterogenen Medien und die Dioptrik der menschlichen Kristallinse’ in 1908 (awarded the ‘Swedish Medical.

He was elected a member of ‘The Royal Society at Uppsala’ in 1904 and served as its President from 1913 to 1914.

He was elected a member of the ‘Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ in 1905 and served on the academy’s ‘Nobel Physics Committee’ from 1911 to 1929, serving as Chairman from 1922 to 1929.

He co-founded the ‘Swedish Ophthalmological Society’ with two others in 1908 and remained a prominent member.

In 1911, the procedures he used in focal illumination, particularly with the’slit lamp instrument,’ had gained considerable importance in practical application by ophthalmologists. In the same year, he invented the reflex-free ophthalmoscope, which became an indispensable tool for diagnosticians in the field of ophthalmology.

Three universities awarded him honorary doctorates of philosophy: Dublin, Jena, and Uppsala. In 1912, he was inducted as an honorary member of the ‘Swedish Medical Society.’ Later that year, on the eve of his 60th birthday, the society established the Gullstrand Medal and the Gullstrand fund for the promotion of ophthalmic research in his honor.

To free him from routine hospital duties and clinical teaching and enable him to devote more time to research, the ‘Academic Senate’ of ‘Uppsala University’ requested the establishment of a personal chair in physical and physiological optics for him. In 1914, the Swedish Parliament granted Gullstrand a ‘Personal Professorship in Physical and Physiological Optics’ at ‘Uppsala University’.

He devoted himself to several procedures and calculations after assuming the position in 1914 in order to obtain a more appropriate form of refracting surfaces in optical devices. Gullstrand’s work on optical system calculations is preserved in the library of ‘Uppsala University,’ and a 1919 publication titled ‘Über asphärische Flächen in optischen Instrumenten’ (On aspheric surfaces in optical instruments) was published on the subject. He also delved into the study of higher-order optical system laws.

He was a delegate to the 1922 ‘American Society of Ophthalmology Congress’ in Washington. He was appointed emeritus professor in 1927 and relocated to Stockholm, where he continued his scientific work, focusing on optical system laws of the fourth and fifth orders.

Significant Works of Allvar

His significant contributions include the analysis and study of optical images and the way the eye refracts light; his research on astigmatism; a thorough understanding of the structure and function of the transparent frontal portion of the eye called the cornea; and the development of corrective lenses used following cataract surgery.

Through his measurements of the eye’s ‘optical constants,’ which are still relevant and used today, he explained the’schematic eye,’ a mathematical model of the human eye.

Awards and Accomplishments

He received the ‘Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine’ in 1911 for his contributions to ophthalmology.

Personal History and Legacies

In 1885, he married Signe Christina Breitholtz. Esther Gisela, the couple’s daughter, was born on March 2, 1886. Unfortunately, Esther contracted diphtheria as a toddler and died on December 11, 1888.

Gullstrand died in Stockholm on July 28, 1930, as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was laid to rest in the ‘Norra begravningsplatsen,’ or ‘Northern Cemetery,’ in the municipality of Solna, Stockholm.

Estimated Net Worth

The net worth of Allvar is unknown.