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 Argyll Robertson pupils (1869)

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

Medical Eponyms
Argyll Robertson pupils (1869)

Reflex iridoplegia characterized by small, irregular, unequal pupils, with near-light dissociation; absence of a miotic reaction to both direct and consensual light with preservation of the accommodation reflex. Classically associated with neurosyphilis.

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.

Argyll Robertson was consulted by a patient who lived in ‘Old Calabar’ about the ‘Calabar swellings’ that affected her eyes. He extracted filiarial Loa loa worms from these lumps and was thus one of the first to describe Ocular Loiasis.

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

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.