This paper analyses the process of knowledge growth in a branch of medical science. It proposes a study on the scientific advances in glaucoma research organized in two parts. The first presents a qualitative overview of the problem sequences that have characterized 150years of medical research in ophthalmology. This is complemented in the second part by a network analysis of scientific publications and collaborations of the last 50years. Medical knowledge, we surmise, is punctuated by patterns of specialization, diversification and coordination that emerge both within and among scientific, technical, institutional and organizational realms. © 2007 Springer-Verlag.