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S. D. Risley papers

Identifier: MSS 2/006

Scope and Contents

This collection of S. D. Risley's professional papers, 18811913, consist of ophthalmological case records, 1886-1908, many from the Philadelphia Polyclinic and College for Graduates in Medicine; a surgeon's report of Wills Eye Hospital, 1901; manuscript and typescript versions of articles concerning ophthalmology, cataract and other eye diseases, and surgical instruments and treatments, 1881-1913; correspondence, reports, and related materials concerning eye examinations for school children, 1898-1904; miscellaneous correspondence, 1897-1908; illustrations and photographs, 1907 and undated; and miscellaneous printed materialsjconcerning Risley's professional affiliations with the American Ophthalmological Society and American Otological Society, 1900-1906.

Series 3, the bulk of the collection, contains Risley's manuscripts of his published writings; the series has several subdivisions. Series 3.1 is a list of Risley's reprints, [1913]. The manuscripts in Series 3.2 are numbered sequentially, 1-38 (some numbers refer to empty folders). A third section, Series 3.3, is organized alphabetically by title of article. There are also four small sections: abstracts and critiques of papers; lectures to students and course syllabi; speeches; and fragments of articles.

A second significant section of the Risley Papers concerns the eye examination of Philadelphia school children. With B. A. Randall, Risley mounted a large scale investigation into this concern in the 1880s. At the turn of the century, Risley became again active in this concern and worked closely with Dora Keen Handy (a daughter of William W. Keen), Corresponding Secretary of the Public Education Association of Philadelphia. Risley's work in this area resulted in the production of an eye examination test card for schools. Samples of the card, along with correspondence and related materials about this project are preserved in Series 4.


  • 1881 - 1913


Biographical / Historical

Samuel Doty Risley, Philadelphia ophthalmologist and otologist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on 16 January 1845. He was married to (1) Emma D. Thompson and (2) Julia Louise Robinson. Risley died on 1 April 1920.

After service in the Civil War, Risley attended the University of Iowa, 1865-1868, then received an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1870. The following year, he entered Wills Eye Hospital as Clinical Clerk. In 1872, Risley assisted William Fisher Norris as Chief of Clinic of the Eye Service at the University of Pennsylvania. From 1872 to 1879, Risley was a lecturer and assistant surgeon in ophthalmology at Penn. From 1886 to 1900, he was Professor of Diseases of the Eye at the Philadelphia Polyclinic and College for Graduates in Medicine. From 1890 to 1917, Risley was an attending surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital, and, from 1886 to 1914, he was consulting ophthalmologist and a member of the board of managers of the Pennsylvania Training School for Feeble Minded Children.

Risley was noted for his improvements to the optometer and ophthalmoscope, was the author of some 150 articles on ophthalmological topics, and determined the amount of square feet required to provide adequate lighting to school rooms.

Risley became a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphian 1891 and, in 1904, was president of its Section on Ophthalmology. He was also a member and president of the American Ophthalmological Society, the American Otological Society, and a president of the American Academy of Medicine.


3 boxes

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The Risley Papers were given to Dr. Harold G. Scheie by one of Dr. Risley's children (possibly Dr. Norman Risley?) circa 1967. Scheie donated the papers to the College of Physicians on 13 April 1967.

The collection was processed and catalogued in 1989.
S. D. Risley papers
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Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States