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David Bowie receives emergency surgery on his left eye

On Monday 12 February 1962 David Bowie was punched by his schoolfriend George Underwood, during an argument over a girl. Two days later Bowie was rushed to hospital where he received emergency surgery on his left eye.

On the day of the fight, Bowie was taken by his headteacher to Farnborough Hospital, but was discharged that evening and sent home to rest.

Two days later, however, on 14 February Bowie was rushed to London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital for an emergency operation.

I had a black eye and then a couple of days later the eye just exploded. My dad rushed me to the hospital and I had an emergency operation on it. The only other person I’ve seen with eyes like this is Little Richard.
David Bowie
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

David Bowie, 1960s

Bowie’s eyesight was saved, but his left pupil was permanently dilated – a condition known as anisocoria.

At first they thought I’d lose my eye. I was scared stiff, but in the end it turned out that one of the muscles which controls the pupil was damaged.

For quite a while I was very embarrassed about it. Although I could see very well out of the eye, it made me self-conscious. But as I’ve grown older I’ve got the like it. It makes me feel different, distinctive!

David Bowie
Any Day Now, Kevin Cann

George Underwood wrote Bowie a letter of apology, which was sent to him at Moorfields. However, he forgot to include the final page, which contained the apology. The two boys later made amends when Underwood visited him in hospital.

Bowie spent two months recovering at home, during which he focused his attentions on learning the saxophone. In June he joined Underwood’s band the Konrads.

Last updated: 5 July 2021
George Underwood punches David Bowie
Live: The Konrads, Bromley Tech – David Bowie's first live performance
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