Douglas Argyll Robertson

Douglas Moray Cooper Lamb Argyll Robertson

Douglas Moray Cooper Lamb Argyll Robertson (1837–1909) was a Scottish surgeon and ophthalmologist.

Famous for noting the association of an intact accommodation reflex with absent light reflex in certain spinal disease, later attributed to tertiary syphilis.

Promoting the extract of Calabar Bean, containing physostigmine (eserin), as a new drug particularly for glaucoma treatment.


  • Born 1837 Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 1857 – Graduated medicine, St. Andrews University. Licenciate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
  • 1858 – Prague under von Arlt; Berlin, Albrecht von Graefe
  • 1866 – Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
  • 1886 – President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • 1893 – President of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom (first ‘non-London‘ President
  • Honorary surgeon–oculist to Queen Victoria and to King Edward VII
  • Died 3 January 1909 on vacation in Gonday, India – cremated on the bank of the river Gondli

Key Medical Attributions:

Argyll Robertson showed the antagonistic property of the Calabar bean (Physostigma venenosum) to atropine; later to become first effective medication to treat glaucoma.

Medical Eponyms

Major Publications


  • Obituary: Douglas Argyll Robertson. Br Med J 1909;1:191
  • Thoburn AL. Douglas Argyll Robertson, 1837-1909 Discoverer of the pupillary syndrome. Br J Vener Dis. 1977 Aug; 53(4): 244–246. [PMC1045407]
  • Grzybowski A, Sak J. Douglas Moray Cooper Lamb Argyll Robertson (1837–1909). J Neurol. 2016; 263: 838–840. [PMC4826659]
  • Grzybowski A, Plant GT. A tribute to Douglas Argyll Robertson in the centenary of his death: his achievements, the influence of his father and his ‘pupil’ today. Neuro-Ophthalmology 2009; 33:308–312

eponymictionary CTA 2


the person behind the name

Posted by Grant Sanger

Physicianly type with neurological leanings... + Grant Sanger | LinkedIn

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