August 1, 2002

David Maurice, Eye Specialist and Professor, 80, Dies


Dr. David M. Maurice, a pioneering eye specialist and researcher who invented a device that is commonly used to examine the cornea, died on July 20 in Manhattan. He was 80.

The cause was a liver tumor, according to Columbia University, where he was a professor of ocular physiology.

In the early 1960's, Dr. Maurice invented the specular microscope to examine the transparent tissue cover of the front of the eye. Because the instrument eliminates light that is not in focus and can achieve high spatial resolution, it can pinpoint individual cells so that doctors can determine the thickness of the cornea, count the number of cells and find out which are healthy.

The specular microscope is now used by ophthalmologists throughout the world in a variety of eye procedures, like cataract removal and Lasik surgery.

"The specular microscope is a very common instrument and is being improved all the time," said Dr. Peter Gouras, a professor of ophthalmology at Columbia. "It is used all over the world. Probably every ophthalmology center has one."

Throughout his career, Dr. Maurice conducted research on various areas, including eye movement, pain, tissue mechanics and retinal detachment.

In the mid-90's, he published a paper challenging the longstanding belief that the rapid eye movement that occurs in sleep is a sign of vivid dreams. Instead, Dr. Maurice argued, the movement, known as REM, was caused by the eye's need for oxygen.

David Myer Maurice was born in London. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Reading in Berkshire, England, and his doctorate from University College in London.

In addition to Columbia, he taught at Harvard, the University of Paris and Stanford, among other schools. He retired from Columbia in 1993.

He received numerous accolades for his work in ophthalmology and trained many of today's leading eye specialists.

Dr. Maurice, who lived in Manhattan, is survived by his wife, Anna Morris; three daughters, Celia Maurice Fulton of Menlo Park, Calif., Julia Maurice of Paris and Ruth Maurice of Palo Alto, Calif.; a brother, John, of Kibbutz Hazorea, Israel; and four grandchildren.

His first marriage, to Carlotta Maurice, the mother of his children, ended in divorce. She also survives him.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company