John Bruce Hamilton

John Bruce Hamilton (190168), ophthalmologist, was invited in the 1930s, with Dr WD Counsell, to investigate the causes of blindness in Tasmania. In 1940 he published his valuable Guide to Ophthalmic Operations, and from 194143 he served as ophthalmic surgeon with the Australian Army in the Middle East, but his crowning achievement was the publication in 1951 of The Significance of Heredity in Ophthalmology, a Tasmanian survey with 111 pedigrees of patients with 16 different eye diseases. This work earned Hamilton his MD. With the subsequent identification of the double helix, and the publication of the human genome project two generations later, these families (now larger) have proved an invaluable resource for the identification of disease-causing genes.

Subsequent work by ophthalmologists including Drs David Mackey and Michael Denton has used this resource in identifying gene locations and mutations from eye diseases including Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, Retinitis Pigmentosa, X-linked Megalocornea, Glaucoma and Keratoconus.

Further reading: ADB 14; Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, Tasmanian Branch, Papers on the life and work of Dr J. Bruce Hamilton, Hobart, 1992.

Jean Panton