Museum and Collections

On this pages you will find links to ophthalmological collections and ophthalmo-historical projects.

Albrecht von Graefe – Collection of the German Society of Ophthalmology at the Berlin Medical History Museum

In 1886, sixteen years after the death of Albrecht von Graefe (1828-1870), his friend, the physiologist and ophthalmologist Frans Cornelis Donders, proposed to collect the letters of this important Berlin ophthalmologist. At that time, however, a large part of the Graefe estate had already been sold. In 2002, the collection, which has since grown to about 1050 objects, more than 90 per cent of which are autographs and books, came to the Berlin Medical History Museum on permanent loan from the German Ophthalmological Society. Here it is to be conserved, archived, digitised and made accessible for scientific processing. A newly created section in the museum’s permanent exhibition presents some important pieces to the public.

Website Antique Spectacles

This English website is about the 700+ year history of the optical lens. It is unique and a serious project filled with history, science, culture and art. For details see the overview and introduction. There is a huge Virtual Museum with more than 110 slide shows. You may like the many interesting topics that have been developed. Especially look at the list of participating European museums and also the professional organisations that have contributed to this international group work and are now publishing it.
This website has over 300 pages, you can find the table of contents here.

Albrecht von Graefe’s ophthalmological correspondence with witnesses of his time

“The importance of Graefe’s is so great that in 20, 30 and 40 years the interest will not only not be less than today, but will most probably appear in a completely different historical light”, Otto Becker, 1889 at a meeting of the German Ophthalmological Society.


As early as 1887, enthusiastic opthalomologists began to collect Albrecht von Graefe’s remains. Among them is an extensive correspondence that von Graefe maintained with important ophthalmologists of his time. In order to provide interested parties with an insight into these letters, which are important in the history of science, the DOG Deutsche Ophthalmologische Gesellschaft together with the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charité, has published a selection of letters: About a quarter of the total volume of correspondence has been edited in a book and made accessible to posterity.


Like no other field, ophthalmology experienced a surge of innovation around 1850. Helmholtz’s ophthalmoscope made retinal detachments, macular degeneration and many other eye diseases visible for the first time, which until then had been grouped together as “black cataracts”. At this time, ophthalmology emancipated itself as an independent subject. Albrecht von Graefe was a driving force in this change towards a science-oriented medicine. Initially ridiculed by sceptics as a “fashionable doctor”, in 1857 he succeeded for the first time in treating glaucoma by iridectomy.


Albrecht von Graefe invited “revolutionary” like-minded people to Heidelberg for a collegial exchange: The foundation stone for the “German Ophthalmological Society” is laid. From then on, ophthalmologists meet annually, initially in small circles, to discuss the latest surgical methods and therapies. Even away from the Heidelberg meetings, von Graefe kept in touch with this circle of progress-oriented ophthalmologists. His estate, in which numerous professional letters to important ophthalmologists of his time have been preserved, also bears witness to this. They authentically convey the spirit of optimism in ophthalmology at that time.

Comprehensive information on von Graefe’s life’s work is also provided by the DOG’s Albrecht von Graefe Collection of over 1000 exhibits in the Berlin Medical History Museum of the Charité:

Campus Charité Mitte
Charitéplatz 1
10117 Berlin
Tel.: 030 450-536129
Fax: 030 450 536 905