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Biographical entry Smith, Redmond John Hamilton (1923 - 2012)

MB BS London 1946; DO 1950; MRCS and FRCS 1952; MS 1956.

10 April 1923
27 January 2012
Ophthalmic surgeon


Redmond Smith was an ophthalmologist in London and an expert on glaucoma. He was born in Barnes on 10 April 1923, into a medical family: his paternal and maternal grandfathers, and his father, Hector, were all doctors. His mother was Maud Smith née Hamilton. He was educated at the Oratory School, Caversham, and entered St Mary's Medical School in 1941. He enthusiastically entered into medical school life, and was elected secretary of the students' union (the equivalent of today's president). During his period of office he welcomed the Queen Mother and her two daughters to a performance of the Mikado. Redmond was an enthusiastic member of the cricket and rugby clubs, and played regularly for the first teams. There is a photograph of the distinguished 1947 1st XV at Teddington, showing an easily recognisable young Stan Peart and Redmond, both enviably ageless. He continued to support the club and took part in the famous post war tour to Lyons, supervised by Arthur Dickson Wright, where one of the players was rather carelessly lost and has not been seen since.

Redmond qualified in 1946 and became house surgeon to the ENT and ophthalmic departments at St Mary's, and started his interest in eye surgery. In 1954 he was appointed to the Royal Northern Hospital and to St Mary's in 1957 (with the eye department shortly moving to its present site at the Western Eye Hospital). In 1960 he was appointed to the staff at Moorfields.

Redmond combined the best features of the old and new wave of ophthalmologists: whilst preserving simple, well-proven remedies, he was always looking critically at new developments and rapidly adopted worthwhile techniques, skilfully avoiding gimmicks. Apart from a considerable reputation as a general ophthalmologist, he was a foremost authority on glaucoma, bringing a much needed touch of realism to this enigmatic disease.

To many of us his teaching was outstanding and his ward rounds were a joy. He attributed much of the inspiration for his teaching (like many of his contemporaries) to Sir George Pickering. Surgically he encouraged us to use simple techniques and instruments, although he was one of the first to use the operating microscope. We didn't just learn ophthalmology: we were shown how to construct a tennis court, a cider press, a Persian rug and a split cane fishing rod, and were given 101 uses for cling film and Blu-tack.

Redmond had a distinguished career in research. Whilst at Mary's in the 1950s, along with Harry Keen, he carried out pioneering work on the natural history of diabetic retinopathy. At the same time, at Moorfields and the Institute of Ophthalmology, he directed his research towards rubeotic glaucoma. During his career he produced a steady stream of interesting papers and his book on glaucoma (Clinical glaucoma London, Cassell, 1965) was a concise classic. In 1984 he became editor of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

His placid temperament and modesty, amongst many other virtues, were a great example and endeared him to junior staff and colleagues.

Last but not least, Redmond was a family man. Stella (née Richardson), his wife, whom he married in 1948, and his two sons and daughter were a great source of support to him. Stella helped the Friends of St Mary's for many years. Redmond died of cancer on 27 January 2012 at the age of 88, after a short illness.

Ron Marsh

Sources used to compile this entry: [Moorfields Eye Hospital‎; - accessed 2 October 2013].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England