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Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, Geneva

While enjoying the view from an open carriage window on a train journey to Geneva, Adolphe de Rothschild (1823-1900) was injured by a tiny coal particle hitting his eye. In Geneva he sought the medical assistance of Dr Auguste Barde, to relieve him from this very painful injury. The young Geneva-born ophthalmologist, who had obtained his degree in Berlin and successfully worked in Paris before returning to his homeland, carried out a rapid and largely painless operation, successfully extracting the particle. It was this personal experience that motivated Adolphe to establish in Geneva an eye clinic for indigent patients suffering from eye diseases or injuries.

The first major step for Adolphe was the purchase of two pieces of land in the neighbourhood of Le Prieuré, favourably situated between the main train station and the banks of Lake Geneva, for a total of c.30,000 Swiss francs. From there it was only a three-minute walk to the Quai des Pâquis (today Quai Wilson), with splendid views of the Lake and Mont Blanc. This neighbourhood was particularly designated as a residential area, thus the property contract prohibited the installation of any industry causing emissions of noise, dirt or other nuisances. As these restrictions applied to all the surrounding streets, a most advantageous environment for a clinic was secured.

When it was opened on 5 October 1874 it provided 10 beds for male, and 10 for female patients. According to its statutes it offered free treatment and hospitalisation for needy patients, regardless of their religious or national background. Dr Barde was appointed medical director and served in this post until 1914. In 1887 the building was extended, to house a separate children’s ward with 6 beds and a playroom, a thoroughly separate ward for patients suffering from contagious diseases, a large leisure room for convalescents, and several facilities rooms. Another smaller building housing new laboratories, the Pavillon Barde, was finished in 1900.

When Adolphe died in February 1900, his Geneva foundation was a fully-functioning and well-established hospital. The annual figure of out-patients, some 1,100 during the first years, had risen far above 2,000 (more than 4,000 in the 1920s, and c.6,000 in the 1930s). The number of annual hospitalisations, some 260 in the beginning, was now above 400, and more than 200 operations were carried out each year.Its medical standards and state-of-the-art equipment attracted patients not only from Switzerland, but also from France (in fact, about two thirds of them were French), Italy, Germany and other European countries.

In his will, Adolphe  requested that his widow, Julie (1830-1907), should establish a similar hospital in Paris for treatment of optical diseases, to be called Fondation Ophthalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild. 

Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, Geneva, engraving, c.1905

000/2099, 1 item

Engraving of the 'Hospital Rothschild in Genf'', (Geneva) 'A. Detraz.Phot' Hch Zollinger sculp'.

Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, Geneva, postcards, c.1905

000/1468, 1 item

Postcard depicting the Rothschild hospital in Geneva, part of the ophthamological foundation established  by Adolphe de Rothschild.

Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, Geneva, photographs, 1970

000/1632, 12 items

Photographs of the Hôpital Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, the Rothchild eye clinic in Geneva.

Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild, Geneva, report, 2013

000/2293, 1 item

Fondation Ophtalmologique Adolphe de Rothschild: Activity & Management Report, 2013.