World-famous Hill eye doctor, 91, authors poetry book

by Len Lear
Posted 6/18/24

Long-time Chestnut Hill resident Dr. George L. Spaeth has written scores of book chapters and an astonishing 23 books. 

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World-famous Hill eye doctor, 91, authors poetry book


Long-time Chestnut Hill resident Dr. George L. Spaeth is arguably the most renowned ophthalmologist in the world. The Director Emeritus of the Glaucoma Service at Wills Eye Hospital received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in ophthalmology at Wills Eye Hospital.

He has been a Professor of Ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. He is the author of hundreds of papers in peer-reviewed literature, has written scores of book chapters and an astonishing 23 books. 

A founding member and first president of the American Glaucoma Society, the 91-year-old Hill resident was also a founder of the Glaucoma Service Foundation to Prevent Blindness and served as chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

In his early career, when he was just a resident at Wills Eye Hospital,  Spaeth discovered the disease homocystinuria, an inherited disorder in which the body is unable to process certain building blocks of proteins properly. His textbooks are used in medical schools all over the world, and he has been given more awards than can be listed here, including the Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award, which he has in common with Ronald Reagan, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others.

Dr. Spaeth’s talents and aspirations extend far beyond the medical realm. He played soccer at Yale and is a talented musician, composer and artist whose work conveys a sense of wonder. 

His next-door neighbor, Diana H. Rodgers, wrote in the Local on Dec. 21, 2023, that “despite eight decades separating them, George has become one of my girls’ most important friendships. There are very few places where a true friendship between children and the elderly can organically grow, but Chestnut Hill is one of those places ... and George Spaeth epitomizes what it means to be a good neighbor.”

Now, Spaeth has just written a wonderful book of poetry, “Hope for Awareness,” published by Moonstone Press of Philadelphia, which he dedicated to his late wife, Ann Ward Spaeth, a beloved community activist and winner of CHCA's Chestnut Hill Award in 2009. “She led me towards more caring and honest ways of thinking and acting,” Dr. Spaeth said of Ann.

“Hope for Awareness” is his second book of poems. His previous, “Family Voices,” was a collection of poetry and prose from 20 members of his family.

There are those who would argue that science and the arts are incompatible, since one deals with provable facts and the other with works of imagination, yet Dr. Spaeth feels that both are essential.

“Science can contribute good things,” he said, “but is equally or more capable of making the world worse. Science will never 'save the world.' It is amoral, as happy making poisons and bombs as creating vaccines and furnaces. So I don’t aspire to be a 'scientist' but rather to use the methodologies of science to accomplish what they can sometimes accomplish that may be positive contributions to the world. To understand that, it helps to be an artist and a naturalist. But always, underneath all [my] different activities, is an attempt to try to be a person aware of and grateful for the gifts and opportunities given, trying to respond graciously to that awareness.”

Among the gifts for which Spaeth is grateful are his family, his late wife Ann, his father, Dr. Edmund B. Spaeth (1890-1976), professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1934 to 1955, founder of the American Board of Plastic Surgery in 1939 and author of the four editions of the world's standard text for eye surgery, and his three sons: Christian, a former teacher; George Jr., a furniture maker, and Eric, an architect.

Whether through parenting, poetry, or any of his other endeavors, he said “the purpose is for me the same: to try to help the world evolve towards something lovelier, fairer and more honest.”

For more information, visit Len Lear can be reached at

Georg Spaeth, Len Lear, Chestnut Hill, poetry, eye doctor