The Beginning of Ophthalmic Instruments

Revised and Updated by Seth Preston on: September 30, 2019

There are not many fields that require the use of technology more than ophthalmology. The field has evolved rapidly within the last century. Being a scientific field that is changing daily, brings forth a plethora of new technologies. Let’s take a look at the most common ophthalmic tools and where they got their start.




An ophthalmoscope is a tool used to see inside the eye, characterized as a convenient hand held tool. It was invented in 1851 by a German physicist by the name of Hermann von Helmholtz. This monumental discovery allowed physicians to see the retina effectively.


Photo of Ophthalmoscope




The phoropter’s appearance has been a symbol of ophthalmology throughout history. The image of a patient being analyzed in a phoropter is synonymous with a visit to the optometrist. The discovery and implementation of this indispensable tool came out of the need to gauge a refractive error in a patient. This tool is pivotal to the diagnostic process of determining a prescription for an individual.

Photo of phoropter


Slit Lamp


This tool was conceived out of necessity to see the anterior segment of the eye. Physicians in the early 1900’s needed a solution to see more of the cornea and function of the lens. In 1911, Swedish ophthalmologist and self taught mathematician Allvar Gullstrand invented the slit lamp to address this need. This new found capability has been an old ophthalmic standby ever since.


Photo of slit lamp