Ida Mann

Dame Ida Caroline Mann (1893 - 1983) 400

Dame Ida Caroline Mann (1893 – 1983) was an English ophthalmologist.

First female professor of Ophthalmology in England; first woman to hold a Chair at the University of Oxford; first woman to be appointed Senior Surgeon at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London; and first President of the Contact Lens Society

Her research interests included trachoma, rubella cataract, geographic distribution of eye diseases, the ocular effects of vitamins; and the contact lens.

During World War II she investigated the pathology of mustard gas keratitis and formed a Chemical Defence Research Team to study ocular effects of warfare chemicals.

In addition to her two classic ophthalmology texts and over 143 papers, Mann published under the nom de plume, Caroline Gye: ‘The cockney and the crocodile‘ (1962) and ‘China 13‘ (1964) on fighting trachoma in central Australia and Taiwan

  • Born February 6, 1893 in Kilburn, London
  • 1914 – Commenced medical training at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women, London
  • 1917 – Transferred to St Mary’s Hospital, London for clinical training. However she persuaded Professor John Ernest Sullivan Frazer (1870-1946) to allow her to study study embryology and thus became the first woman “to enter the dissection room (never before consecrated by a female)…and to invade the physiology department”
  • 1920 – Graduated medicine MB BS from the University of London; MRCS, LRCP.
  • 1921-1925 Ophthalmic House Surgeon, St Mary’s Hospital, London
  • 1927-1949 Ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital; FRCS (1927).
  • 1928 – DSc, University of London. Her thesis, rewritten and expanded, was published as the classic textbook The Development of the Human Eye ‘twice revised and never replaced…’. Appointed the first Ophthalmic Surgeon to The Royal Free Hospital for Women.
  • 1929-1931 Research into the living comparative anatomy of the vertebrate eye at London Zoo.
  • 1941-1944 Margaret Ogilvie Reader in Ophthalmology, University of Oxford
  • 1944-1947 Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford
  • 1945-1949 Senior Surgeon, Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, Moorfields
  • 1949 – Emigrated to Australia and Western Australia’s warmer climate due to the ill health of her husband Prof William Ewart Gye (1889-1952), the retired Director of the Imperial Cancer Research Laboratories.
  • 1949-1952 Ophthalmic Consultant at Royal Perth Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital.
  • 1950 – Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • 1950-1979 Private practice in Perth, Western Australia invested by Sir James Mitchell, Government House Perth, 21 June
  • 1952 – Following the sudden death of her husband, Mann was set to return to England but instead took the position of ophthalmic advisor to the Western Australian state government, investigating the eye problems of the indigenous population in the North-West. She diagnosed a trachoma epidemic amongst Indigenous people in the Kimberley and travelled extensively in Western Australia in order to examine and treat Indigenous people with trachoma. Mann became convinced that better housing and sanitation, rather than administration of antibiotics, would improve this health crisis. Later her investigations into communicable eye diseases extended to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and to Taiwan
  • 1953-1974 Member of the Research Committee, Ophthalmologic Research Institute of Australia
  • 1954 – President, Ophthalmological Society of Australia
  • 1976 – Retired
  • 1980 – Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) for services to the welfare of Aboriginal people.
  • Honorary doctorates by the University of Western Australia (1977) and Murdoch University (1983).
  • Awards: Doyne Medal, Oxford Ophthalmological Congress (1929); Nettleship Medal, the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom (1930); Howe Medal, American Ophthalmological Society (1958); Bowman Lectureship and Medal, Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom (1961); Jose Rizal Medal, Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (1972);
  • Died November 19, 1983 in Dalkeith, Perth, Western Australia

Medical Eponyms
Ida Mann classification of Coloboma (1937)
  • Type 1: coloboma extending above the anatomic disc
  • Type 2: coloboma extending up to superior border of disc
  • Type 3: coloboma extending below the lower border of disc
  • Type 4: coloboma involving the disc only
  • Type 5: coloboma present below the disc with normal retina above and below the coloboma
  • Type 6: pigmentation present in the periphery
  • Type 7: coloboma involving only the periphery

Mann I. Developmental abnormalities of the eye. 1937: 65–103

Key Medical Contributions
Reptile research

Ida worked in the Reptile House with the Curator, Joan Proctor armed with a slit lamp and an electric ophthalmoscope. She produced over 200 meticulous drawings and presented three Memorial Lectures.

It was the fashion of the day for a lady to wear a fur around her neck, however at her 1930 Nettleship Medal Lecture on the Reptilian iris, Ida famously ditched the fashionable fur preferring instead to drape her favourite cobra…live but chilled.

Proctor died suddenly in 1931 and Ida presented to the London Zoological Society a lengthy paper with 57 beautiful coloured drawings on “The Iris Pattern in Vertebrates – to the Memory of Joan Beauchamp Proctor

Slit Lamp

Contact lenses

Major Publications


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 |

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