Swanzy, Sir Henry Rosborough (1843–1913), ophthalmic surgeon, was born 6 November 1843 in Dublin, eldest son of John Swanzy, solicitor, of Wellington Road, Dublin, and his wife Frances Margaret, daughter of Francis Mills of Dublin. His family were descended from Henry Swanzy of Avelreagh, Co. Monaghan, who served as an officer in the army of William III (qv). He was educated at the school of Dr Charles W. Benson (qv) in Rathmines before entering TCD, where he graduated BA (1864) and MB (1865). In 1866 he became LRCSI and then travelled abroad, where he spent periods in both Vienna and Berlin. He studied under some of the leading European surgeons and became an assistant to Albrecht von Graefe at the Berlin University Hospital. During the Austro–Prussian war of 1866, he volunteered to serve as a surgeon with the Prussian army and then remained in Berlin until von Graefe's death (1870).
Returning to Dublin (1871), he established a private practice as an ophthalmic and aural specialist, and in 1873 graduated MA (Dubl.) and was elected FRCSI. He soon established a reputation as a surgeon of considerable ability and was appointed to the National Eye and Ear Hospital in Cuffe St. and also at the Adelaide Hospital. In 1877 he was appointed professor of ophthalmology at the RCSI, but resigned (1881) on being appointed a college examiner.
While he was renowned in Dublin for his surgical skill, it was through his writings that he achieved a wider European reputation. He frequently contributed articles to the Reports of the Ophthamological Society, the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medical Science, and later the Dublin Journal of Medical Science. These included ‘On essential phthsis bulbi’ (DQJMS, 1869), ‘Insufficiency of the internal recti muscles’ (DQJMS, 1870) and ‘The influence of the uterus on eye disease’ (DJMS, 1878). In 1884 he published Handbook of diseases of the eye and their treatment. This was an immediate and international success, and by 1912 had run to ten editions. In the later editions he collaborated with Louis Werner, who provided colour illustrations. In 1883 he published Eye symptoms in the localisation of cerebral disease; later articles included ‘Note on defective vision and other ocular derangements in Cornelius Magrath, the Irish giant’ in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (3rd ser., iii, 1893–6). In 1900 he contributed to a medical reference work, System of diseases of the eye.
By the 1880s he had been recognised as one of the leading ophthalmologists in Europe, and in 1888 was elected as the Bowman lecturer of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom. From c.1890 he began to campaign for the establishment of a new specialised hospital, and was one of the prime movers behind the establishment of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital on Adelaide Road, Dublin (1897), following the amalgamation of the National Eye and Ear Infirmary and St. Mark's Ophthalmic and Aural Hospital. He served (1897–8) as president of the Ophthalmological Society of the UK, and was later president of the RCSI (1906–8). In 1905 TCD awarded him an honorary doctorate, and he later received an honorary D.Sc. from Sheffield University (1908). He was knighted in 1907 and was a member of the party that presented Edward VII with an illuminated address during his visit to Ireland that year.
He was a prominent member of the British Medical Association and gave evidence to the vivisection committee. In his later years he actively campaigned in support of animal experiments and was a founding member of the Research Defence Society, a group specifically set up to counter the work of anti-vivisectionists. He died 12 April 1913 at his Dublin residence, 23 Merrion Square, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. A memorial was later unveiled to him in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.
He married (August 1874) Mary Knox Denham (d. 1909), eldest daughter of John Denham, MD and previously president of the RCSI. They had two sons, who died in infancy, and three daughters; the second daughter was the artist Mary Swanzy (qv).