Govindappa Venkataswamy, who died in July 2006, was best known for developing eyecare programs that reach out to millions of Indians and serve as models for providing such services in the developing world. Venkataswamy was chairman of the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. He grew up in rural India and remembers that his first school had no paper or pencils. Rather, children gathered sand from a nearby riverbank, spread it on the ground, and wrote in it. Venkataswamy earned a bachelor of arts in chemistry in 1938 from American College in Madurai, a doctor of medicine from Stanley Medical College in Madras in 1944, and a doctor of ophthalmology at the Government Ophthalmic Hospital in Madras in 1951. In 1956, he was appointed head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Government Madurai Medical College and eye surgeon at the Government Erskine Hospital in Madurai. He held these posts for 20 years.
Venkataswamy personally performed more than 100,000 successful eye surgeries. He also developed and pioneered the concept of eye camps and safe, assembly-line techniques, which have become models for blindness prevention and treatment programs worldwide.
Upon retiring from government service in 1976, at the mandatory government retirement age of 58, he established the Aravind Eye Hospital. Under his leadership, Aravind became the largest eyecare training and research center in the world. To date, more than 1.2 million eye surgeries have been performed and more than 11.9 million patients have benefited from services rendered.