Professor Dame Ida Mann DBE

Professor Dame Ida Mann diagnosed a trachoma epidemic in the Aboriginal population in the Kimberleys in 1949.

Honour Roll

Ida Mann was born on 6 February, 1893, in London, England. Her father was a civil servant and she had a happy childhood although troubled with illness. Her first experience with medicine was when she underwent a tonsillectomy performed at home under local anaesthetic.

She was educated at Wycombe House School, then took the Civil Service Girl Clerks' examination and entered the Post Office Savings Bank. Ida matriculated in 1914 and entered the London School of Medicine. She researched the embryology of the eye at St Mary's Hospital in London. The papers she wrote, 'The Development of the Human Eye' (1928) and 'Congenital Abnormalities of the Eye' (1937) became standard texts on ophthalmology. She worked at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women, the Central London Eye Hospital and then the Royal London Opthalmic Hospital, Moorfields from 1927.

Her interest in comparative anatomy led to her becoming an oculist at the London Zoo. She won numerous scientific awards and addressed international scientific meetings around the world. During World War II, Ida was senior surgeon at Moorfields where she researched chemical warfare. She accepted a fellowship at Oxford University and eventually became Professor of Opthalmology there. She married Professor William Gye in 1944 and they migrated to Perth in 1949.

She was asked by the Western Australian Government to investigate eye problems among the Aboriginal population in the Kimberley region. She diagnosed a trachoma epidemic at a stage when the symptoms were not visible and spent four years researching the disease. She then became a World Health Organisation consultant, studying eye diseases in the Pacific and Asia.

She described her work in two autobiographical books, The Cockney and the Crocodile (1962) and Culture, Race Climate and Eye Disease (1966). She was awarded an DBE in 1980 in recognition of her work. Ida died in Perth in November 1983.