Skip to main content
  • Famous People You Didn’t Know Were Ophthalmologists

    Feb. 24, 2023

    We celebrate the ability of ophthalmologists — the only eye care providers with advanced medical training — to protect sight and empower lives. But what about ophthalmologists who become famous outside of medicine? Here are eight famous people you may not have known were ophthalmologists.

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Did you know the writer behind literature’s most beloved detective was an ophthalmologist? Best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Doyle made use of idle time in the office waiting for patients to show up by crafting stories. Dr. Doyle eventually quit his practice to focus on writing more of his popular crime fiction. Medical themes, symbols and characters appearing throughout his 50+ works of fiction pay tribute to his career as a physician.

    Alfred Adler

    Famous for founding the theories behind individual psychology, Alfred Adler worked as an ophthalmologist before pursuing studies of the human mind. He is best known for coining the term “inferiority complex,” a key development in understanding human behavior and personality. His work is still studied and taught widely among psychologists today.

    Rand Paul

    Currently serving as a United States Senator from Kentucky, Dr. Paul leads successful careers in both ophthalmology and politics. Dr. Paul was considered a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but his campaign came to an end after finishing in fifth place during the Iowa caucuses. His dedication to eye care still shines in his advocacy work, including his role in forming the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, which provide free eye exams and procedures to underserved communities.

    Renée Richards

    Dr. Richards became a famous tennis player and was the first transgender athlete to play professionally. In addition to being ranked among the 20th top tennis players in the nation, Dr. Richards became an instrumental figure in the transgender rights movement when she fought to compete as a woman in the 1976 U.S. Open. Upon retiring from her athletic career in 2013, Dr. Richards returned to practicing ophthalmology.

    Jules Stein

    Best known for his work as a talent scout, Dr. Stein founded the agency behind some of Hollywood’s biggest names including Shirley Temple, Ronald Reagan and Bette Davis. Even after the agency got quite large after multiple acquisitions, Dr. Stein continued to make significant contributions to the ophthalmology community. Most notably, Dr. Stein helped launch Research to Prevent Blindness and founded the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA.

    Robin Cook

    Bestselling author of 37 books, Dr. Cook stirred a global interest in medical ethics and public policy issues through his fictional writing. He wrote his second novel, Coma, during his ophthalmology residency and became known as the creator of a new genre, the medical mystery thriller. Since then, dozens of film adaptations have been made based on Dr. Cook’s work.

    Jose Rizal

    Recognized for his leadership in the revolution against the Spanish, Dr. Rizal is considered a national hero in the Philippines. While studying ophthalmology in Europe, Dr. Rizal published two satirical novels calling for the fight against the Spanish government and the Catholic clergy in the Philippines. Though he was banished and eventually executed for his rebellion, he is considered one of the leading figures of the revolution and was instrumental in winning independence for the Philippines.

    Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof

    Ophthalmologist Dr. Zamenhof became a famous linguist after launching a project which would unify all nations with one common language. In an attempt to better international communications and eventually achieve world peace, Dr. Zamenhof created Esperanto, a language constructed with the intention of becoming a shared language among all nations. Though natural languages are still customary, Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed language today.