Retinal examination using the Optos ophthalmoscope P200

Retinal examination using the Optos ophthalmoscope P200

Douglas Anderson

Born 1951

Douglas Anderson

Douglas Anderson, engineer and inventor of the world's first ultra-widefield retinal imaging system

Engineering Achievements

When Douglas Anderson's five-year old son suffered a detached retina and lost his sight in one eye, Douglas decided to try to develop a better device for detecting early stage eye problems. After many years of development, working with colleagues David Cairns and Robert Henderson, the technical challenges were progressively overcome and they finally succeeded in designing and patenting a scanning laser ophthalmoscope that enabled eye care practitioners to capture a digital ultra wide-field image of the retina in a single scan. The breakthrough was to use an ellipsoidal mirror in such a way that its focal point would create a 'virtual' light source just in front of the patient's pupil. It was calculated that this would allow a reflected low-level laser beam to have a scanning range of approximately 82 per cent of the retina - a huge improvement on the 5-30% of conventional examination techniques.

This was the first patent for an ellipsoidal mirror in an ophthalmoscope. One previous patent application had made the assertion that using an ellipsoidal mirror for scanning the retina would not work because of image distortion. Undeterred, Douglas and his colleagues found ways of using advanced electronics to correct the distortion and patented the 'scanning ophthalmoscope for scanning the retina of the eye'. Unlike previous devices, the Optos ophthalmoscope would be capable of producing high-resolution true colour images in a single scan, without the need for eye drops to dilate the pupil, making the process far more patient-friendly.

His Life

  1. 1951 Douglas Anderson was born in Elie, Fife
  2. 1974 Age: 23 Graduated HND (with Distinction), Industrial Design Engineering, Napier College
  3. 1992 Age: 41 Optos founded
  4. 1999 Age: 48 The P200 received clearance fron the FDA and the EU CE marking
  5. 2000 Age: 49 Full commercial launch in the UK and USA
  6. 2004 Age: 53 Leading Individual Contribution to Life Sciences, Scottish Enterprise
  7. 2006 Age: 55 Optos plc floated on London Stock Exchange
  8. 2006 Age: 55 Optos plc awarded the MacRobert Award
  9. 2008 Age: 57 European Inventor of the Year
  10. 2008 Age: 57 Awarded OBE for services to life sciences
  11. 2008 Age: 57 Honorary Doctorate from Heriot Watt University
  12. 2009 Age: 58 Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration, Edinburgh Napier University
  13. 2009 Age: 58 Vice President, Global Advocacy, Optos plc
  14. 2009 Age: 58 Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
  15. 2010 Age: 59 Non-executive director of Michelson Diagnostics Ltd
  16. 2012 Age: 61 Honorary Doctorate of Science from Salus University, Philadelphia
  17. 2012 Age: 61 Inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame
  18. 2013 Age: 62 Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering
  19. 2013 Age: 62 Honorary Fellow of IESIS

His Legacy

Such has been the effectiveness of the device that it has created a paradigm shift in clinical thinking, enabling not just better and earlier diagnosis but rapidly increasing the understanding of how diseases develop such as to provide the basis for innovative new treatments. Approximately 4,400 Optos devices have been installed worldwide with the majority in North America. Optos is headquartered in Dunfermline, Fife and is growing quickly in Europe and expanding into new markets through new distribution channels and directly in Australia. As at March 2012, over 33 million optomap exams have been undertaken.

Douglas's determination to succeed is an inspiration to others. In his own words, "I have been described as 'terminally optimistic' and if that's true it's certainly a disposition that helped me, not just deal with, but enjoy what was a rough and chaotic journey along the brink of disaster that was our daily horizon. And will be that of anyone who dares to break new ground.

"But at the end of all that struggle we succeeded in making a valuable imaging device that everyone said was impossible technically, clinically unnecessary, and certainly doomed commercially. But we owe those Luddites a debt because it was their infuriating scepticism and complacency that gave our thoughts their momentum."

More Information

Optos, A CIPA Case Study Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys
2006 Winner, Optos plc Macrobert Award Winners 2006, Royal Academy of Engineering
Optos: The design challenges and business tribulations: RAEng/ RSE Annual Lecture 2008
European Inventor of the Year 2008 - SMEs/Research Category, European Patent Office
Download: DouglasAndersonAcceptanceSpeech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 28 September 2012

Primary Engineers Inspired by Douglas

Since being inducted into the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, Douglas has visited primary schools around Scotland to talk about his life and experience as an engineer. This has inspired the pupils fortunate enough to meet Douglas, and encouraged them to enter the Primary Engineer Scottish Engineering Special Leaders Award competition. Entrants have to describe what they would do if they were an engineer in Scotland. Here are two successful entries inspired by Douglas's visits.

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