Among the guests at the 1964 retirement party of famed Penn ophthalmologist Dr. Harold G. Scheie (center) was Lord Earl Louis Mountbatten (left), a member of the British royal family and former Supreme Allied Commander in Southeast Asia during World War II. With good reason, too: If not for Scheie, Mountbatten may well have lost his eyesight two decades earlier.
Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was touring a combat zone late in the war when his jeep passed under some low-hanging bamboo. The bamboo struck him in the eye, causing hemorrhaging and severe wounds. Scheie, a then up-and-coming ophthalmologist serving in Burma with the 31st Hospital Unit of the Army Medical Corps, performed a delicate operation to save the eye, ordered Mountbatten to nearly a week of bed rest, then stayed near the commander through this recovery. Mountbatten’s sight was saved, and the two became lifelong friends. In fact, when Penn’s Scheie Eye Institute was dedicated in 1972, it was Mountbatten who led the ceremonies.
For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on May 10, 2007