The beginnings of the Ophthalmology Clinic (1834 - 1907)

At the newly founded Bern College (University), the first lecturers in ophthalmology were Wilhelm Rau from 1834 to 1861 and Karl Wilhelm von Zehender from 1861 to 1866. Both saw their patients in the polyclinic in the old Inselspital, on the site of today's Bundeshaus Ost. The first Bern Eye Clinic with Henri Dor as full professor and director was opened in 1867 in the house of the State Pharmacy on Inselgasse. Under Ernst Pflüger (from 1867), who made a name for himself with vision tests, a perimeter and research on glaucoma, the clinic moved twice. The first time in 1878 to the neighboring Kleine Amtshaus and then in 1884 with the entire Inselspital away from the city center to the current location.


The new eye clinic at the Inselspital (1908 - 2007)

The new eye clinic at the Inselspital initially had only 30 beds. Polyclinic rooms, operating rooms and lecture hall were missing. In 1903, the authorities approved a plan for a new building. Under August Siegrist (from 1903), the imposing building of the new eye clinic (today's ward and orthoptics) was occupied in May 1908. The eye clinic now comprised 95 beds, 25 of which were in the private ward, and at that time was undoubtedly the most modern and best-equipped clinic in the Inselspital. 
The waiting room of the eye clinic was still in use until 1975. The wards were replaced by contemporary one- and two-bed rooms.


Hans Goldmann and the Bern Eye Clinic (1935 - 1968)

Siegrist was succeeded in 1935 by Prof. Hans Goldmann, who directed the clinic until 1968. From 1945 to 1947 he was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. In 1964/1965 he was rector of the University of Bern. In 1968 he became emeritus professor. Goldmann's fundamental research on the pathophysiology of vision, on glaucoma and many other aspects of ophthalmology secured for him and thus for the University Department of Ophthalmology a high international reputation. Under Goldmann, the scientific basis for the development of ophthalmological examination instruments such as the Goldmann perimeter and the applanation tonometer, which were taken over by the Haag-Streit company in Bern, was worked out. He also developed numerous instruments and examination methods such as the three-mirror contact lens. In addition to developing apparatus, he made important contributions to the understanding of glaucoma and cataracts.
His name, together with Maurice Favre (1876-1954), is associated with Goldmann-Favre syndrome. He also founded the "Hans Goldmann Foundation" for orthoptics, which still exists today. The aim of this foundation is to ensure the continued existence and further development of the school of vision (orthoptics and pleoptics) founded by Prof Goldmann in 1942.
Goldmann often complained about the poor quality of static perimetry during his clinical rounds. This was among the reasons for Professor Fankhauser's work on the physiology of vision in connection with perimetry. These began in Bern when he worked as a resident and later as a senior physician under Hans Goldmann. In collaboration with a number of talented physicists such as Alfred Rouiller and Jürg Spahr, Fankhauser automated static perimetry with the Octopus perimeter, which was launched in 1974. Extensive psychophysical studies by the Fankhauser group led to innovative developments for perimetry - the Bernese perimeter "Octopus" is now used worldwide for visual field testing and is manufactured by the Haag Streit company. Prof. F. Fankhauser and his colleagues set internationally recognized priorities in the research of clinical applications of laser technologies. One example is the introduction of the Nd:Yag laser in collaboration with the Lasag company for treatments in the anterior segment of the eye.

 Professor Fankhauser (1954 - 1958)

Professor Fankhauser's work on the physiology of vision in relation to perimetry began in Bern when he worked as an assistant physician and later as a senior physician under Hans Goldmann. Static perimetry had existed since the late 19th century but had its limitations, particularly in diagnosing the sometimes-in the early stages of the disease-small visual field defects of patients suffering from glaucoma. Goldmann frequently complained about the poor quality of static perimetry during his clinical rounds. In conglomeration

Prof. P Niesel (1968 – 1988) and Prof. F. Körner (1988- 2005)

Under Prof. P. Niesel's ordinariate (1968 - 1988) many innovations were introduced. Vitreous surgery (vitrectomy) was introduced into ophthalmology in 1973. In 1976 the first vitrectomies were performed in Bern. The biomicroscopic diagnosis of retinal and vitreous pathologies, which was traditional in Bern, was represented and further developed by Prof. G. Eisner in continuing education, teaching and research. Prof. F. Körner (1988- 2005) focused on modern vitreoretinal surgery, treatment of diabetic retinopathy, diagnostics and therapy of inflammatory eye diseases as well as clinical analyses of retinopathy of prematurity in the service and clinical and experimental research of the University Department of Ophthalmology. After the infrastructure in the two operating rooms of the old clinic building was no longer sufficient, a new operating wing with 2 modern rooms was put into operation in 1995.


Professor S. Wolf (2005-2023)

Professor Sebastian Wolf, who studied medicine in Aachen and at Harvard Medical School, was appointed full professor at the University Department of Ophthalmology in 2005. Professor Wolf founded the Bern Photographic Reading Center BPRC and over the last two decades established it as an internationally recognized center for the coordination and independent evaluation of images. The BPRC has been involved in numerous clinical trials in retinal and neurological therapies conducted by large pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotech companies. Under Professor Wolf, clinical and basic science research has continued to develop and the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Bern has become a leader in this field, but also on an international level. During this time, a deepened collaboration with the ARTORG Center took place, which led to the foundation of numerous startups, including Perivision and RetinaAI. In addition, the old polyclinic dating from the 1970s was renovated and occupied in 2016.