Johann Friedrich Horner

Johann Friedrich Horner (1831 – 1886)

Johann Friedrich Horner (1831 – 1886) was a Swiss ophthalmologist.

Horner was a foremost clinical teacher relating diseases of the eye to other disorders of the body. He was a competent eye surgeon performing over 2000 cataract operations with reduced complication rate following his introduction of aseptic techniques. Performed the first Z-plasty for correction of ectropion (1837)

Horner syndrome, was so named following his 1869 description of the condition. Identified sex linked transmission for red-green colour blindness

  • Born in Zurich 27th March 1831
  • 1854 – Graduated Medical school – University of Zurich
  • 1855 – Studied the use of the ophthalmoscope in Vienna with Eduard Jaeger Ritter von Jaxtthal
  • 1856 – Became assistant to Albrecht von Graefe furthering ophthalmology studies
  • 1856 – Founded the University of Zurich ophthalmology clinic which then became an independent clinic the ‘Hottinghof’
  • 1867 – Introduced regular examinations of the eyes of schoolchildren
  • 1862 – Named Professor of Ophthalmology
  • 1876 – Horner established that “a man with a red-green colour blindness transmitted this anomaly to his male grandchildren through his daughter who was not colour blind (sex linked transmission)
  • Died in Zurich 20th December 1886 aged 55

Medical eponyms
Horner syndrome (1869)

Classic triad of ipsilateral ptosis, miosis and anhidrosis (+/- enophthalmos)

Horner reported the findings of ptosismiosis, and enophthalmos in a 40-year-old peasant woman. He also observed increased skin temperature and dryness of the ipsilateral face.

He pharmacologically confirmed the impairment of sympathetic innervation to the eye after noting poor dilation of the affected pupil following instillation of atropine and preserved pupillary constriction to the parasympathomimetic agent calabar. [1869;7:193-198]

Frau Anna Brändli, 40 Jahre alt, eine gesund aussehende Bäuerin mittlerer Grösse… bemerkte ein allmähliges herabsinken des rechten oberen Augenlides, das sehr langsam zunahm… Das obere Lid deckt die rechte Cornea bis an den oberen Pupillarrand… Die Pupille des rechten Auges ist bedutend enger als diejenige des linken…  Nun erst erzählte uns die Patientin, dass sie rechterseits nie geschwitzt habe

Die Untersuchungen ergaben also Integrität des sensiblen Trigeminus, transitorische Lähmung des vasomotorischen Fasern im rechtseitigen Trigeminusgebiet;… (es) wundert sich Niemand, wenn ich diese… nie vollständige Ptosis als Lähmung des vom Sympathicus versorgten organischen Musc. palpebral super. ansehe.

Horner, J. 1869

Mrs Anna Brändli, 40 years old, a healthy looking Farmer of middle size… noticed a gradual sinking of her right upper eyelid, which was progressing slowly… The upper lid covered the right Cornea up to the edge of the pupil… The pupil of the right eye is notably smaller than that of the left… Now the patient told us that she did not sweat on the right side

The investigations demonstrated integrity of the sensory Trigeminus, transitory paralysis of the vasomotor fibres of the right Trigeminal territory… noone will be surprised if I attribute this incomplete Ptosis to a paralysis of the Levator Palpebrae superioris muscle, supplied organically by the sympathicus.

Horner, J. 1869

Horner muscle – lacrimal portion of the orbicularis oculi muscle (tensor tarsi muscle)

Horner-Trantas spots – punctiform yellow-white calcified concretions of the conjunctiva around the corneal limbus associated with vernal keratoconjunctivitis

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


the person behind the name

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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