Peter Watson was a giant in the field of Ophthalmology, recognised internationally for his pioneering work on the mechanisms and treatment of blinding eye disease. During his career, Peter revolutionised the practice of ophthalmology. In the 1970s, working together with the late John Cairns, he developed an operation for glaucoma, the trabeculectomy, which remains to this day the most commonly performed surgical treatment for glaucoma worldwide. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world and trabeculectomy has had a huge effect in reducing the burden of blindness due to this disease. Peter’s other enormous contributions to the field of ophthalmology include world-leading research on the mechanisms of scleral disease and the mechanisms of corneal graft rejection.
Peter held clinical appointments at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where he ran the Scleritis Clinic for many years. His landmark textbook, ‘The Sclera and Systemic Disorders’ was first published in 1977; the 3rd edition was published in 2012 and remains only comprehensive text on the subject. Peter served as Editor of Eye from 1986-1993 and was Master of the Oxford Ophthalmological Congress amongst many other leadership roles. Major international awards included the Jules Francois International Research Gold Medal, the Duke Elder International Gold Medal and the Jules Francois International Research Gold Medal from the International Council of Ophthalmology.
Peter continued to contribute extensively after his “retirement” from the NHS in 1995, including spending 6 years as Böerhaave Professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He remained incredibly active in the field of ophthalmology at a local, national and international level and held some of the most important posts in world ophthalmology, including the Presidency of the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis, the most senior organisation in the field.
Peter’s charitable work was undertaken with enormous energy and enthusiasm. He worked extensively overseas including long term projects in India, Egypt, Pakistan and he also served as Deputy Hospitaller for the Order of St John of Jerusalem. As Founder and Chairman of the Cambridge Eye Trust, he helped raise over £1.5 million to support and advance eye research in Cambridge to improve treatment for our patients. He worked tirelessly to encourage potential donors to help the charity, organising charity concerts and other events in support of the Trust on a regular basis. He founded the Cambridge Ophthalmological Symposium in 1970 which has run every year since and is one of the major international research meetings in the ophthalmology calendar.
Internationally, Peter was responsible for setting up and running the International Council for Ophthalmology (ICO) Examinations, a structure which has driven up the standards of ophthalmology in many countries around the world. The ICO Examinations remain the only worldwide medical-specialty examinations. They are independent and free of any outside influence and can be taken in the candidate's own country, so far by over 19,500 candidates.
Peter faced his final illness with great resilience and fantastic support from his wonderful family. He is survived by his wife Ann, his 5 children and many grandchildren.
Written by Professor Keith Martin, MD, FRCOphth
Some of the testimonials to Peter can be found in the 2017 edition of the newsletter.
Mr Peter Watson - CET initiatator
The Cambridge Eye Trust would not have been started without the tenacity and inspiration of Mr Peter Watson.