The Father of Modern Optometry: Dr. Irvin Borish

 · Carolyn Crabb

Today the spotlight is on Dr. Irvin Borish, a.k.a. “The Father of Modern Optometry”.

Known by many simply as Borish, his work influenced almost every aspect of optometry throughout his long life.

He began his career on the faculty of the Northern Illinois College of Optometry, from which he graduated, in 1934, as the first NICO grad with a straight-A average. In 1944 he opened a practice in Kokomo, Indiana. He was a member of the initial committee that founded the School of Optometry at Indiana University. After its inauguration in 1953, he commuted from Kokomo to serve as a visiting faculty member. In 1972 he retired from his practice to teach at Indiana University as professor of optometry, serving as director of patient care and teaching courses in clinical procedures and contact lenses until his retirement in 1982, when he became a professor emeritus. In 1982 he was appointed to the first endowed chair in an optometric institution, the Benedict Chair, at the University of Houston. He continued to lecture well into his 90s, delivering his last commencement address at the University of Houston at age 97 in 2010. The university later established the Irvin M. Borish Endowed Chair in Optometric Practice.

In the late 1970’s, he predicted that optometry would embrace computers and automated equipment, long before they were even available. He was one of the first pioneers in contact lenses, both spherical and notably presbyopic lens designs (he was granted five patents for contact lenses, including bifocal contacts). Dr. Borish may have been the first individual to recognize the value of utilizing technicians in the practice for testing purposes, allowing more time for treatment and patient consultation. He authored more than 85 articles and nine textbooks. His textbook Clinical Refraction is known by optometry students worldwide as a classic textbook. Dr. Borish championed the importance of establishing uniform standards and evaluation systems in optometric education and was among the individuals responsible for establishing the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.

Voted the “OD of the Century,” by Review of Optometry, Dr. Borish was the first inductee into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 1998. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 99.


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