David Glendenning Cogan
1908 - 1993
“To have such a seminal influence on your field is given to very few people…how a man could by virtue of his mental agility, skills, and kindness catapult to the top remains an example and a lesson.” — Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD
David Glendenning Cogan was introduced to ophthalmology by his mother, herself a pioneering ophthalmologist, and was mentored by Frederick Verhoeff. At the age of 32, he succeeded Verhoeff as director of Harvard’s Howe Laboratory, which had a tremendous influence on ophthalmic research during Cogan’s 30-year stewardship. He believed the essence of investigation was originality, curiosity and perseverance, and fostered that spirit in the talented clinicians and basic scientists he recruited to Howe. He later served as director of neuro ophthalmology at the National Eye Institute. Among Cogan’s important scientific contributions were studies of the cornea, optic nerve, and ocular muscles; improved understanding of diabetic retinopathy and the effects of radiation on the lens; and several definitive textbooks. He is regarded as one of the great masters of ophthalmic pathology and neuro-ophthalmology, as well as a superb mentor who brought out the best in those around him.
He was the inspiration and founder of the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society.....more
Mark Your Calendar
Twenty-sixth Annual Meeting
Kansas City, Missouri
April 13-14, 2013
The Cogan Ophthalmic History Society Celebrates Its 22nd Year
James G. Ravin, MD ; Ronald S. Fishman, MD
Americans live in the present but love the future. We anticipate, foresee, and prognosticate. This reflects our optimism and belief in progress, arguably the most progressive aspects of science. The fact that the future is largely unknowable does not stop us. The past, on the other hand, is knowable, at least in part, but can be a slippery thing in itself, prone to selective memory and the attitude of the historian.
Medical specialties differ in the attention they give to their past. Neurology and psychiatry have done particularly well at it, and even anesthesiology and urology have created their own historical societies. Since 1988, American ophthalmology has had its own history group. It was founded by David Cogan, MD (1908-1993), Editor-in-Chief of the Archives from 1960 through 1966. He was anticipating the centennial celebration of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 1996 and wished to help American ophthalmologists become more aware of their heritage. In its early years, the group was titled the American Ophthalmic History Society, but after his death it was renamed the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society, in his honor. Originally, it met at the National Library of Medicine on the campus of the National Institutes of Health because Dr Cogan was the Director of Ophthalmology at the National Institutes of Health. More recently the meeting has been held at various cities throughout the country, depending on who is the local sponsor.
The Cogan Ophthalmic History Society meets once a year for a day and a half, and approximately 30 short historical talks are presented. Topics range the entire past of ophthalmology and visual science and are limited only by the imagination and interest of its members. Recent presentations have included a survey of early ophthalmic instruments by Richard Keeler, the unusual career of Ida Mann, DBE, MB, DSc(London), MA, by Stan Thompson, MD, and Harry Truman's hyperopia by Darron Bacall, MD. Only a particularly unimaginative audience would not find something fascinating and previously unknown in the papers presented.
All of us have heard admonitions about the value of knowing history, such as "the past is prologue." Residents today have no way of understanding how lucky they are until someone describes to them how a perfectly performed cataract operation often led to a disgruntled patient trying to adjust to an aphakic spectacle correction. Each of us could describe examples of how useful knowledge of the past (essentially the experience of others) can be as we attempt to improve our practice of medicine. However, apart from any practical considerations, history can be interesting in itself when well presented.
Comparable societies exist in Europe such as the Julius-Hirschberg-Gesellschaft in Germany and the Société Francophone d’Histoire de l’Ophtalmologie in France.
The Cogan Society welcomes those interested in ophthalmic history; more information can be found on its Web site (http://cogansociety.org/).
Correspondence: Dr Ravin, University of Toledo College of Medicine, 3000 Regency Ct, Toledo, OH 43623 (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Financial Disclosure: None reported.
Arch Ophthalmol. 2009;127(7):945.