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Ronald Francis Lowe was devoted to the very highest standards of ophthalmology. Born in 1913, he died at the age of 84 in March 1998 after a lifetime of service to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and his profession. A tall and imposing man, he also stood tall intellectually and demanded the highest standards of himself and those who worked with him.
Ron Lowe initially trained as a pharmacist before changing to medicine. He graduated in 1939, with first class honours and the prize in surgery. The war years saw him serving in Papua New Guinea and Darwin but towards the end he was seconded ex-army, to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, where he began his career in ophthalmology.
After the war, he became a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and was later awarded the first ever fellowship in ophthalmology by the Royal College of Surgeons, England. On his return to Australia and The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital he held many senior positions, being a senior ophthalmic surgeon, member of the board of management and ophthalmologist in charge of the glaucoma unit from 1963 to 1975.
He promoted the international standing of Australian ophthalmology, being a foundation professor and vice president of the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis and in 1958 a foundation member of the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology. He has been the only Australian president of this organisation.
Ron published prolifically in many international journals, with his main contributions being in the field of angle closure glaucoma. He produced over 60 papers on this topic and studied anterior chamber geometry, glaucoma screening, and the racial and geographical variation in angle closure glaucoma. His latest writings were of a more historical nature, devoted to chronicling of the development of ophthalmic pioneers, both in Australia and overseas.
I remember sitting with him a few years ago in his austere Melbourne office, several floors above Collins Street, with its rattling trams and a driving rain upon the window. He described how he first came to practise ophthalmology at a time when it was not considered a specialty in its own right. He explained his quest to understand angle close glaucoma; how he listened to his patients, how he recorded his observations, how he reflected on possible mechanisms. He described his travels to China and the regional differences in the presentation of glaucoma and how well received he was by his Asian colleagues, eager to learn from this Australian who physically towered over them.
Increasing age had not dimmed his enthusiasm, his knowledge of the literature, or his curiosity about glaucoma in all its forms. He enjoyed great devotion from his patients and was much admired by his peers. His first wife, Lois, died in 1985 and in 1987 Ron married Zena, a fellow ophthalmologist and great companion, with whom he shared many and varied interests. He is survived by Zena, his son, Richard, and his younger brother, Rupert. They can take comfort from the fact that his influence and contributions will long endure.
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