S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Stutterheim, Dr Nikolaas Anton (ophthalmology)

Born: 4 March 1873, Middelburg, Zeeland, The Netherlands.
Died: 19 February 1953, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nikolaas (or Nicolaas) Anton Stutterheim, medical practitioner and ophthalmologist, initially studied theology in Utrecht, but then changed direction and studied medicine at the University of Leiden, qualifying as a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (LSA, London) in 1905. He then came to South Africa as a medical practitioner at Ermelo, in the Transvaal Colony, and was registered to practice in 1906. In 1910 he returned to The Netherlands and qualified as an ophthalmologist at the University of Leiden. At some time he also worked as an assistant at the Eye Clinic of the University of Leiden. While in the Netherlands he married Elizabeth Catharina van Nouhuys, with whom he had four children. She died in 1926.

Back in South Africa Stutterheim settled in Bethal, but in 1926 moved to Johannesburg. There he continued his studies and qualified as Doctor of Medicine (MD) at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1929, after which he built up an active practice. His doctoral thesis was published under the title Indications for the kinetic treatment of the eyes, as a monograph supplement to the British Journal of Ophthalmology (1931, 82 p.)

According to Dr A. Pijper*(1953), Stutterheim was first and foremost a philosopher, who's outlook led him to make a detailed study of the physiology of vision, and particularly human binocular vision. He developed novel theories of asthenopia [weakness of vision owing to strain or weakness of the eye muscles] and strabismus [squint], and put them to practical use with some success, though they remained controversial. His work was published in the form of several scientific papers: 'The convergence of human binocular vision' (1932), 'The primary position of the eyes' (1933) and 'Involuntary convergence, eyestrain and squint' (1942), all in the British Journal of Ophthalmology; and 'The divergence of the primary position of the eyes' (Australian Journal of Optometry, 1934). The applications of his theories were set out in three books: Eyestrain and convergence (1937, 80 p.), Squint and convergence; a study in di-ophthalmology (1946, 95 p.) and Introduction to diophthalmology (1950, 43 p.)

Stutterheim was awarded the Senior Captain Scott Memorial Medal of the South African Biological Society in 1951, in recognition of his ophthalmological work.

List of sources:

Google Scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za

Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Directory of South Africa, 1926/7. Johannesburg: E. Herbert, 1926.

Medical, Dental and Pharmacy Register for the Transvaal, 1907. Johannesburg: Transvaal Medical Council and Transvaal Pharmacy Board.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval Systems (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Nicolaas Anton Stutterheim / Nikolaas Anton Stutterheim

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Pietermaritzburg Archives Repository, Vol. NMC 34: List of Medical Practitioners, Dentists, Chemists and Druggists, Midwifes, and Nurses registered [in the Transvaal] as on 31 December 1914.

Pijper, A. Dr Nicolaas Anton Stutterheim. South African Biological Society Pamphlets, No. 16, 1953, pp. 41-42.

Ploeger, J. Nederlanders in Transvaal, 1850-1950. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik, 1994.

Compiled by: C. Plug