PURNELL, EDWARD WARD, M.D. (21 Feb. 1928-8 Oct. 1993) was a physician, surgeon, researcher, and director of Ophthalmology at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY School of Medicine and UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS OF CLEVELAND. During the 1960s and 1970s Dr. Purnell pioneered the application of ultrasound to the study of the eye and the diagnosis of eye diseases and developed new techniques in eye surgery using sound waves.
Born in Youngstown, Purnell attended Rayen School and graduated from Mercersburg (PA) Academy (1946). He received his A.B. from Princeton University (1950), M.D. from Western Reserve University School of Medicine (1957), and studied ophthalmology (1958-1959) at Harvard Medical School. He served in the U.S. Navy (1950-1953) during the KOREAN WAR.
Purnell completed his internship and residency at University Hospitals (1957-1961). He joined CWRU as an Instructor of Ophthalmology (1961-1962), advancing to Senior Instructor (1962-1964), Assistant Professor (1964-1968), Associate Professor (1968) and Full. He was appointed Director of the Division of Ophthalmology (1973) and Charles I. Thomas Professor Emeritus of Ophthalmology (1976).
In 1961 Purnell obtained a National Institutes of Health grant to use ultrasound to study ocular disease and physiology. Assisted by Dr. Adnan Sokullo, Purnell pioneered the use of high-frequency sound waves to push back into place a detached retina, and of even higher frequencies to weld it into place. Purnell and associates then designed an ultrasound scanner enabling ophthalmologists to identify which patients may benefit from certain types of eye surgery.