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Biographical entry Miller, Sir Stephen James Hamilton (1915 - 1996)

KCVO 1979; KStJ 1980; MRCS and FRCS 1948; MB ChB 1937; DOMS 1944; MD 1953.

19 July 1915
Arbroath, Tayside
12 April 1996


Sir Stephen Miller was born on 19 July 1915 in Arbroath, Tayside, the eldest son of Stephen Charles Miller, an engineer, and Isobel, née Hamilton. He was educated at Arbroath High School and Aberdeen University, where he qualified MB ChB in 1937.

His interest in ophthalmic surgery followed a period as ophthalmic house surgeon at Hull Royal Infirmary and subsequent war service in Malta with the RNVR, and later a post as ophthalmic surgeon to the Royal Navy Auxiliary Hospital at Kilmalcolm.

After the war he was appointed consultant ophthalmologist at Hull, but resigned after only six weeks because of the shortage of modern equipment and returned to a junior post in London. He gained his Fellowship in 1948 and was appointed consultant at St George's Hospital in 1952. Later he obtained appointments at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, where he soon established his reputation as the pre-eminent ophthalmologist and a world expert in the management of glaucoma.

In 1974 he was appointed Surgeon Oculist to the Queen. He left the Health Service in 1980, dismayed by the proliferation of bureaucracy, and concentrated on the administration of two charities. He became Hospitaller to the St John Ophthalmic Hospital, Jerusalem, in succession to Sir Stewart Duke-Elder and Air Commodore Keith Lyle. He was instrumental in collecting £7,000,000 from all over the world to ensure the survival of the hospital. In the sixties he had been consulted by T F C Frost, a patient with an irritable eye and a potential glaucoma. As a result of this, Frost established a fund for research into neuro-ophthalmology and glaucoma. Subsequently this became a charitable trust that has supported institutes and individuals who further research into blindness. Money from this trust was used to provide a Chair in Aberdeen and, on Frost's death, his widow established the Chair of Ophthalmology at St Thomas's Hospital. In 1979 he was appointed KCVO.

Miller was able to write with originality and lucidity. He served for 34 years on the editorial board of the British Journal of Ophthalmology. He published four textbooks including Modern trends in ophthalmology in 1973 and the 16th to 18th editions of Parsons' Diseases of the eye.

A man of great integrity and honesty, with a couteous and gentle manner, he was popular with colleagues and patients alike. Having grown up near St Andrews he had a lifelong interest in golf, and enjoyed competing with his colleagues at Woking. He was also a keen fisherman, a pianist of considerable ability, and a collector of watercolours. He died on 12 April 1996, survived by his wife Heather, née Motion, whom he had married in 1949, and their three sons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1996 312 1355, with portrait; Daily Telegraph 17 April 1996, with portrait; The Times 18 April 1996, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England