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Recognizing Inventors Who Have Helped Us Treat Cataracts

Inductee Stories

The organization Prevent Blindness has declared June Cataract Awareness Month, an opportunity to create an understanding of the risk factors, symptoms, types of cataracts and cataract surgery.

A cataract causes the eye’s lens to become cloudy, blocking or changing the amount of light that can pass into the eye and dramatically impacting vision. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

This Cataract Awareness Month, learn about remarkable National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductees who have developed impressive and groundbreaking approaches to treating cataracts and contributing to eye health, benefiting hundreds of millions of people who have undergone corrective surgery since the time of their inventions.


Charles Kelman

Inductee Charles Kelman is widely regarded as a leading innovator in ophthalmology, or the branch of medicine that deals with the structures, function and health of the eye. His most celebrated achievement is the development of a procedure for removing cataracts known as phacoemulsification. Additionally, he invented the tools needed for this type of surgery, including a phacoemulsifier – a tool that liquifies cataracts within their capsules for extraction. Once the cataract is liquified with a vibrating ultrasonic tip, the fragments are then suctioned out through a small needle.

These advancements in the field of eye care were not only innovative, but they also made an astounding impact on treatment, including reducing the risk of complications during surgery and turning a 10-day hospital stay into an outpatient procedure. Developed in 1963, Kelman’s surgical methods continue to be the preferred methods for fixing cataracts in most modern surgeries. In 1994, Kelman was named the “Ophthalmologist of the Century" for his trailblazing work.


Patricia Bath

Inductee Patricia Bath invented laserphaco, a new device and technique that performs all steps of cataract removal, including making the incision, destroying the lens and vacuuming out the fractured pieces. The laserphaco device, conceived in 1981 and first used in 2000, offered a minimally invasive and efficient approach to removing cataracts. Through her work combining public health, community medicine, and clinical and daycare programs, she had a profound influence on historically underserved communities, making testing and screening for threatening eye conditions more accessible to people everywhere. She also co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, designed to protect, preserve and restore sight through education, community service, research and eye care services.

Notably, Bath was the first Black woman physician to receive a medical patent and was recognized as a laser pioneer by the National Science Foundation, the Lemelson Center, the American Medical Women’s Association, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Museum of Vision and Ophthalmic Heritage. She earned the Lifetime Achievement Award for Ophthalmology Contributions from the Association of Black Women Physicians and the Presidential Award for Health and Medical Services from Alpha Kappa Alpha.


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Learn about more National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees who have improved our health here.

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