“Robert Machemer became involved in the most vexing problems that confronted retinal surgeons. The work that he did has earned the gratitude of thousands throughout the world.”
—Norman S. Jaffe, MD
Robert Machemer, son of an ophthalmologist, was born in Germany and received his medical degree there. A NATO grant enabled him to go to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, where he conducted research on the vitreous and retina with dramatic consequences for the understanding and treatment of retinal detachment and vitreoretinal diseases such as proliferative vitreoretinopathy. Machemer also created an instrument the vitreous infusion suction cutter (VISC), that made possible endoillumination and the safe removal of vitreous through the pars plana. He performed the first pars plana vitrectomy in 1970, an achievement that earned him the title “father of modern retinal surgery.” In addition to his research and clinical developments, Machemer is renowned for excellence in teaching. In 1978, he accepted the challenge of chairing Duke University’s department of ophthalmology, the scope and reputation of which were greatly enhanced during his 13-year tenure. He is now retired in Durham, North Carolina.