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With the death of Robert Machemer, ophthalmology has lost one of its brightest stars. The invention of the ophthalmoscope by Helmholtz in 1851 and the introduction of the head-mounted indirect ophthalmoscope by Schepens nearly 100 years later were seminal events in the recognition and treatment of retinal disease. Before 1970, however, the treatment of complicated retinal detachments, preretinal fibrosis and macular degeneration was unsatisfactory or impossible in all but a few cases. Progress in the treatment of these blinding conditions was limited by the vitreous, which, on account of its sticky and elastic nature and its firm adhesion to parts of the retina, represented a forbidding and forbidden no-go zone preventing surgical access to the retina and restricting detailed intra-operative examination and treatment of chorio-retino-vitreal disease. The arrival in the USA of Robert Machemer in 1966 would change that forever.
The eldest son of a respected ophthalmologist, Machemer was born on 16 March 1933 in Munster, Germany, and graduated in medicine in Freiberg, before going on …