Born: April 26, 1924;

Died: November 12, 2020.

PROFESSOR Wallace Stewart Foulds, who has died aged 96, was an internationally renowned ophthalmologist who gave his grateful patients the precious gift of sight, earning the eternal thanks and respect of them and their families.

Rarely was that more in evidence when, having stepped off a flight at London’s Heathrow, he was stopped at customs and asked to open his case. Peering inside, the customs official spotted the name and address label, and immediately closed the case. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Professor Foulds,” he said. “You saved the sight of my uncle in India 25 years ago and are regarded as a hero by our family.”

A leader in the field of glaucoma, retinal detachment and other eye disorders, he was a dexterous and inventive surgeon who took particular interest in blood flow in the eye and brain, concentrating on the impact of diabetes, hypertension and arteriosclerosis.

Having reached a pinnacle in his medical profession, he happily shared his expertise, helping to nurture the next generation of ophthalmologists in countries around the world.

A sign of his devotion to ophthalmology was his extraordinary post-retirement career which saw him commute between Glasgow and Singapore until the age of 93 as a visiting professor and adviser in research. During that time, he helped to establish the Singapore Eye Research Institute as another centre of excellence. He continued to write papers, direct research, and even obtained grants and patents into his 90s.

Wallace Foulds was born on April 26, 1924 in London to Scottish parents, Nellie and James, who was a former PA to Lloyd George at the Treasury. His father’s work took him to the Board of Trade in Scotland, and he was the first conciliation officer in the UK to work with Nye Bevan, the prominent Labour politician.

Wallace was educated at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and Paisley Grammar, and displayed an impressive quest for knowledge and adventure from an early age. During one unfortunate experiment in chemistry, he managed to blow himself and his friend Bill out of their treehouse – an episode that left him with high-tone deafness but, thankfully for his future patients around the world, did not affect his eyesight.

Family holidays were often spent in Argyll where Wallace developed a love for the outdoors and the open sea – he was particularly fond of sailing, swimming and diving, and continued to snorkel and scuba dive while in his 60s. His mother introduced him to botany and they shared an encyclopedic knowledge of plants and nature. However, it would be medicine that he opted to study, going on to graduate from Glasgow University in 1946.

His National Service was spent in the RAF as a medical officer at Tempelhof Airport as part of the Berlin Airlift, when he witnessed the outcomes of several distressing plane crashes, something that left a lasting impression on him.

While on leave from the RAF in 1947 he married his childhood sweetheart, Margaret, in Glasgow University Chapel. Their union lasted for 64 years, during which time they travelled the world together attending ophthalmology meetings and invited lectures. The couple had three children, Iain, Margaret and Alison, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

His ophthalmology career began with his training at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Despite the workload, he combined roles as a consultant and senior lecturer in Cambridge with research posts at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London for two days a week.

He was appointed Professor of Ophthalmology at the Tennent Institute of Ophthalmology at the University of Glasgow in 1964 and played a pivotal role in helping it gain a global reputation for its clinical and research work.

His appetite for work and ability to survive on just four hours’ sleep a night drove him to produce two postgraduate theses, hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, and dozens of book chapters. As a result, he received numerous degrees and awards, and was in demand at conferences and lectures around the world well beyond retirement age.

He particularly valued the honorary degree of DSc he received from the University of Strathclyde, which recognised his success in promoting interdisciplinary research and integrating scientific investigation with clinical practice.

His appointment as president of the Faculty of Ophthalmology and then the Ophthalmic Society of the UK led to him establishing the College of Ophthalmologists. It was granted a royal charter three years later, with Wallace serving as its first president in the same year he received a CBE.

Despite an enormous appetite and passion for work, he still found time to make the most of his leisure time, much of it spent in Argyll and at his holiday home in Lochgair.

There he would indulge in an impressive range of skills, from housebuilding to building canoes and dinghies, catching crabs and, on one particular occasion, a giant lobster. Frustrated to find it wouldn’t fit the cooking pot, he took it to work and to the dismay of the theatre sister, cooked it in the hospital steriliser.

While others might have opted to take it easy in their later years, he was on the open seas: just a few years ago he sailed his boat, Assegai, solo and non-stop for 36 hours around the Mull of Kintyre in the depths of winter.

Eventually, even he could not conquer time. Despite macular degeneration and the effects of a stroke in 2018, he faced the frailties of advancing age with dignity and stoicism.