Skip Navigation
Return to All Schools

Jonas Friedenwald Professorship in Ophthalmology

School of Medicine

Established in 2012 in honor of Dr. Jonas Friedenwald

FriedenwaldJonasJONAS STEIN FRIEDENWALD was born in Baltimore on June 1, 1897, a member of a prominent Baltimore family. He inherited a great tradition of leadership in ophthalmology, starting with his grandfather, Aaron Friedenwald, one of the first ophthalmologists in Baltimore and one of the early American ophthalmologists to study in Europe. Jonas’ father, Dr. Harry Friedenwald, was born in Baltimore in 1864 and became a distinguished ophthalmologist, scholar, and historian.

Dr. Friedenwald graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 1916. He entered the medical school at Hopkins in the fall of 1916. Following graduation from the Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1920, Dr. Friedenwald spent a year interning on the medical service of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. During his internship he met and later married a Hopkins nurse, Mary Louise Sherwin. Jonas moved to Boston after the internship to spend a year of study in ophthalmic pathology under Dr. Frederick Verhoeff. He was granted a Master of Arts degree from Harvard for his brilliant studies. His second year of training in ophthalmology consisted of a clinical preceptorship in Philadelphia under Dr. George de Schweinitz. From 1923 to his untimely death in 1955, Dr. Friedenwald’s career was one of brilliant accomplishment which has few equals in American ophthalmology.

A quiet and modest person, Jonas Friedenwald was one of the most distinguished research scientists of his era. A brilliant mathematician, physicist, and chemist, he applied these basic disciplines to his research studies in ophthalmology. His contributions encompassed the entire field of ophthalmic investigation, ranging from his classic textbook on ophthalmic pathology to the development of the Friedenwald ophthalmoscope. His pioneering studies on the pathogenesis of glaucoma, the standardization of tonometers, enzyme histochemistry, corneal wound healing, and diseases of the retina laid the groundwork for future generations of investigators.

Due to the fixed distribution of academic titles in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the title of full professor was denied him. Nevertheless, there never was a member of this faculty who more richly deserved the title. For all intents and purposes, in the last 15 years of his life Dr. Friedenwald was the revered but uncrowned Professor of Ophthalmic Pathology. He likewise was in charge of and directed the lion’s share of the research activities in the Wilmer Institute.

His ability to cope tactfully with administrative protocol and his high sense of ethics made him a favorite counsel or appointee to important committee posts. He carried on a clinical practice and was known to be most sympathetic and painstaking in his handling of patients. In short, Jonas Friedenwald was not only a great scientist but a sensitive, understanding human being whose selflessness, simplicity, and desire to help his fellow man made him loved by all.