Ninety years ago, the first issue of the Postgraduate Medical Journal published a review of an article written by Mr Robert Lindsay-Rea, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon in the Western Ophthalmic Hospital and an oculist in the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, entitled “A preliminary report on the treatment of keratitis”. Today, microbial keratitis remains an important cause of avoidable visual impairment in the world. The aetiology of microbial keratitis has changed greatly over the past century due to the discovery of antibiotics, improvement in sanitation and education, the rising trend of contact lens wear and increased air travel. Significant advances have also been made in our understanding and management of this important disorder. This article highlights some of these changes and discusses the current management and research.