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The Sharpe Knife
  1. Richard Keeler,
  2. Arun D Singh,
  3. Harminder S Dua
  1. Correspondence to Mr Richard Keeler, 1 Brookfield Park, London NW5 1ES, UK, rkeeler{at}

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The history of cataract surgery is punctuated by many great names and many landmark events. In the western world, Jacques Daviel is considered as the early pioneer who performed his first cataract operation in 1747 using a set of instruments. He announced his successful method a few years later at the Royal Academy of Surgery in Paris. A year later, on the 7th of April 1753 Samuel Sharpe (figure 1) described his method of opening the cornea with a knife, the only instrument he used, in cataract surgery. That year he read a short paper to The Royal Society on “A Description of a new Method of opening the Cornea, in order to extract the crystalline Humour” which was published in the Philosophical Transactions (figure 2). Whilst giving full credit to Jacques Daviel for his invention of the extraction of the cataract he put forward his method of extraction using only a knife. This was faster thereby decreasing pain to the patient as well as preventing the collapse of the eyeball through the special shape of his knife, which he described as ‘Straight on its flat, somewhat convex on its back, …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.