Sir Harold’s pioneering surgery acknowledged in book

Sir Harold Ridley
Sir Harold Ridley
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The work of the man who pioneered cataract surgery has been recognised in a book celebrating little-known achievements.

The late Sir Harold Ridley, from Swinstead, is among the subjects of “Who? The most remarkable people you’ve never heard of”, by Donaugh O’Brien.

Sir Harold, a prominent eye surgeon in his time, developed cataract surgery while working as an ophthalmic surgeon for St Thomas Hospital in Leicester during the Second World War.

But instead of being praised for his breakthrough, he was roundly criticised by his peers.

His story was one of many that inspired Mr O’Brien to write his latest book. He said: “It took three decades for Sir Harold’s sight-saving procedure to become standard and no less than 51 years to receive his well-deserved knighthood.

“He must have been one of the oldest people, at 94, to be touched with a sword on the shoulders by the Queen.”

Sir Harold’s legacy lives on through the Ridley Eye Foundation, which he set up in 1967 to support research into degenerative eye diseases.

And he will now be celebrated on paper through Mr O’Brien’s book. The author said: “Sir Harold was not alone in his treatment. One shocking thing I found about the history of medicine is the repeated way that advances were reviled and spurned by the medical profession itself, one which is meant to care about life and death.”

Mr O’Brien launched his book at Sir Harold’s former home in Swinstead, raising money for the Ridley Eye Foundation on the day. It is on sale in hardback for £14.99 or paperback for £12.99.