Portrait details: Painted
by Guze Duca, 1915 commissioned
by University of Malta, copy
exists in St. Luke's Hospital Medical Superintendent Office.
Valletta (Malta) 28/10/1746; died: Vienna (Austria) 07/04/1818. Education: Anatomical & Surgical School
Infermeria, Valletta [Malta], Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome [Italy], University of Vienna [Austria]. Qualified 1772. Career: appointed
Public Teacher in Ophthalmology and Anatomy , Professor of
and Anatomy  and Oculist and Professor of Physiology  at University of Vienna; nominated Royal Counsellor
appointed oculist to Emperor Joseph II ; retired 1791 but
post of personal imperial physician and ophthalmologist until his
death. Achievements: Joseph
Barth was to gain renown in ophthalmologic practice and to occupy the
Chair of Ophthalmology in Europe. His appointment to
the post by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria was made in
consideration of his "special skill
in eye diseases as well as his aptitude in finer anatomy". The
professorship occupied by Barth remained the leader in ophthalmology
subsequent professorship being instituted in Berlin only in 1866. Barth also opened a private
nursing home and
the first public eye clinic in the Vienna General Hospital in 1784, wherein he operated on
cataract. He apparently designed the original version of the "Beer's
knife" that was subsequently modified and popularized by his student.
clinical renown led to his appointment as Imperial Oculist after he
successfully treated Kaiser Joseph II of a stubborn "ophthalmitis".
very much a clinical teacher and was
responsible for the training of several renowned physicians, notably
Ehrenritter, Johann Adam Schmidt, Georg Joseph Beer, Georg Prochaska,
Santerelli, G.B. Quadri, and Pietro Magistretti. He also established an Anatomical Museum and founded a medical library
contained 1500 volumes. Barth did not publish extensively preferring
teaching. His publications included an anatomical work on myology Anfangsgrunde der Muskellehre [Vienna, 1786, 2nd ed. 1819] and an
on cataract removal Etwas uber die
Ausziehung des graven Staars fur den genubten Operateur [Vienna, 1797, Salzburg, 1797]. In 1827, Dr. Stefano Zerafa
described Joseph Barth as "….a man
of great merits, Maltese citizen, Chief Physician and Counsellor to Her
Majesty, Professor of Sublime Anatomy and Physiology in the Academy of Vienna, undoubtedly the
first among ophthalmologists….."
References: P. Cassar: The Ophthalmic
Barth 1746-1818. University Press, Malta, 1982, +38p; C. Savona-Ventura: Knight
Hospitaller Medicine in Malta [1530-1798]. PEG, Malta, 2004, p.149-150.