The 1905 Cornea Transplant
December 7 marks the 114th anniversary of the first successful human cornea  transplant. The story behind the procedure is both miraculous and unorthodox. About the size of a dime, the cornea is the clear issue on the front part of the eye. When this +ssue becomes damaged due to disease or trauma, it can cause corneal blindness. This type of blindness can be treated with a cornea transplant. In simple terms, a cornea transplant is similar to switching out the damaged crystal of a wristwatch. Typically, corneas recovered for transplant come from a person who has died.  
The first donor, however, was an 11-year-old boy who had survived an irreversible  trauma to his eye. He had been blinded by a penetrating injury to his  eye and, with his father’s permission, surgeon Eduard Zirm removed the boy’s whole eye to use the cornea for the transplant. For this procedure, Dr. Zirm split the single cornea to provide two grafts for the bilateral transplant recipient. The recipient, a 45-year-old farm laborer, was blinded as a result of severe chemical burns to both of his eyes 16 months prior. Although the graft in the right eye failed, vision in the left eye improved significantly over the following six months.

Today, corneal transplants are rou+ne outpa+ent procedures. Over 50,000  transplants were performed in the US last year alone and, although the first cornea donor was living, this +ssue typically comes from deceased donors.  Anyone can sign up to be an eye donor regardless of health, age or lifestyle and such dona+ons can help treat corneal blindness. For more informa+on on how to sign up to be a donor, go to

Eduard Zirm, the pioneer of the modern cornea transplant.

Alois Glogar, the first documented
corneal transplant recipient.