On 15 August 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Cleaver was shot down during combat. This had been the second sortie that Cleaver had made that day. In the scramble on the ground to get to a ready-fuelled Hurricane plane he had left his Airman’s Goggles in the plane he’d used in the first sortie (it being re-fuelled while the scramble was called). In combat, the Perspex canopy of his Hurricane was hit by cannon shells from enemy aircraft. Perspex fragments shattered into his face and unprotected eyes. He baled out and landed by parachute. He was blinded in his right eye and had seriously reduced vision in the left. This ended his flying career.
Cleaver and Ridley
In the months after this incident, Cleaver had many operations on his eyes and face at hospitals in the South of England. One of the surgeons who treated him was Harold Ridley and he noticed that the Perspex in Cleaver’s eye caused no inflammation. After the war, Ridley used this observation to inform his work on the development of the intraocular lens. He requested the Rayner company to manufacture a lens made from ICI Perspex. The first intraocular lens implant surgery performed by Harold Ridley in 1949 using a lens made of ICI Perspex CQ (Clinical Quality).
Later in life, Cleaver developed cataract in his remaining good eye. In the 1980s, he had the removed by English surgeon Eric Arnott and he received an intraocular lens. Thus his sight was restored thanks a medical device developed after observation on his eyes 40 years earlier. The implant he got in the 1980s was also made of Perspex material – similar to the material fragments that had pierced his eyes in 1940.
‘Life Through A Lens’ uses archive film and photographic material provided by the David J Apple Laboratory. There is an interview with Sir Harold’s son Nicholas Ridley, the Chairman of the Ridley Eye Foundation, Michael Mosely reported on the “Eureka moment” that led to the invention of the intraocular lens.
The film was made by ICON FILMS, based in Bristol England. After it was shown on The One Show there was applause from the presenters, their guests and the audience for Harold Ridley’s contribution to medicine.
We congratulate the directors and staff at ICON Films on this fine production.
The film commentary has two errors we should like to correct here.
It was a different story in America, where the medical profession was much more open to innovation. From 1952 Ridley would fly to the US at weekends to operate there.
This is not correct. in the 1950s and 1960s, Harold Ridley faced almost as much criticism from US surgeons as he received from his British colleagues. He did not have a license to do surgery in the USA nor did he fly over to the US for weekends to operate there nor to observe operations. in the 1950s and 60s, he operated in London until his retirement in the 1970s.
It took until 1981 for the US to declare cataract operations safe and effective.
In 1981 the US FDA: Food and Drug Administration approved an anterior chamber IOL for cataract operations — two lens models designed by Peter Choyce an English surgeon and a disciple of Ridley’s. These were the first intraocular lenses approved by FDA. It marks the beginning of the period of general acceptance of IOLs by ophthalmic surgeons and the regulatory authorities. Many more FDA approvals for anterior chamber and posterior chamber lens models followed in later years. An IOL manufacturer today with a new IOL model still requires FDA approval to have the lens used in the USA.
The show can be viewed on iPlayer for 30 days after transmission:
(Note. in certain geographical areas the film cannot be viewed on our site.)
Donald John Munro