What You Leave Behind
On the second anniversary of Jack J. Kanski’s death, we celebrate his legacy
Aleksandra Jones | | Quick Read
Two years ago, on January 5, 2019, ophthalmology lost one of its greatest figures – Jack Jerzy Kanski. His magnum opus, Clinical Ophthalmology: A Systematic Approach, first published in 1984 (but updated many times and translated into multiple languages), has been called “the bible of ophthalmology.” The chosen textbook of ophthalmology students and residents, it takes pride of place at many hospitals, practices and academic institutions.
Andrzej Grzybowski, Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland, remembers the ophthalmic legend. “Although nearly everybody knows Kanski’s ophthalmology textbooks, few know that he was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1939, and left the country with his mother when he was seven years old. They crossed a green border and eventually reached Great Britain, where Kanski spent the rest of his life. Although he lived away from Poland, he actively supported Polish ophthalmology, inviting young Polish ophthalmologists to train in the UK under his guidance during the communist era and contributing to many ophthalmology meetings in Poland.”
Kanski studied at the London Hospital Medical School and developed his career at the London Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital before taking up a consultant surgeon’s position at King Edward VII Hospital’s Prince Charles Eye Unit in Windsor, UK, where he worked from 1974 to 2000. He established a famous teaching and training program, popular among ophthalmologists from around the globe. Kanski was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in the UK. His main clinical interest was in retinal detachment, but he was also well-known for his work in childhood uveitis.
Although Kanski has authored around 30 ophthalmic books, as well as 10 books in his Concise Outline of History series, he will chiefly be remembered for Clinical Ophthalmology – still the main textbook used by ophthalmology residents around the world.