Links Of Interest For Ophthalmic History Buffs

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Museums you can visit

This is a list of over 30 ophthalmic museums around the world with commentary on each one and links to their web pages. Use this to visit some of the best ophthalmic museums around the world when you are travelling.

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Michael Aitken's tour

An itinerary for visiting the big and small ophthalmic museums and sites of significance for ophthalmic history in England and Europe. Plan to visit them when you are next in Europe.

British Optical Association Museum. Home page

The BOA museum holds one of the foremost collections of ophthalmic artefacts. It was founded by J H Sutcliffe of the BOA in 1901 and passed to the College of Optometrists in 1980 when the BOA was disbanded after the formation of the College. It is open the public. You can search the catalogue of the museum.

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Online exhibitions UK College of Optometrists

The College of Optometrists has 13 online exhibitions based on the collections of material held in the British Optical Association Museum. They range from spectacles to stamps with optical themes. Each has a short essay on the subject.

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British Optical Association Museum catalogue

A quick link to the BOA Museum catalogue if you wish to search for a particular item.

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Antique Spectacles. Online museum and encyclopaedia of vision aids

This vast web site is curated by US ophthalmologist David Fleishman. You can spend hours of browsing thousands of images, essays on the history of spectacles, hints on collecting and find links to other web sites.

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Ophthalmic Antiques International Collectors Club (UK)

Founded in 1982 and based in the UK with about 200 members in quite a few countries including Australia. You can join it for a very modest annual subscription. It has a newsletter and arranges club tours of museums and private collections. It facilitates buying and selling between members.

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The Ocular Heritage Society (USA)

This a similar ophthalmic collectors club to the one above but is based in the USA. Its site has some interesting images and links and gives notice of forthcoming meetings and tours. There is an email address to apply for membership.

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Optometric Historical Society (USA)

An organization for persons interested in the history of optometry, spectacle lenses, vision science, or related topics. Although this is a US society you can join for a modest fee and receive its quarterly journal.

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History of optometry. A time line on one page (pdf)

This is a one page timeline chart of the seminal events in the history of optometry, ophthalmology and optics. It was developed by the curators of the C W Kett Museum and Archive.

History of optometry FROM GLASS TO GLASSES in 4500 years

A Powerpoint slide show 4.3 Mb. 14 SLIDES 3 minutes.

History of optometry FROM READING GLASSES TO BIFOCALS The next 500 years

Powerpoint slide show (4.6 MB) 11 Slides


Powerpoint slide show (4.7 MB) 23 Slides

British Pathe films

This is the web site of a well known maker of newsreel films on which you can search for news stories on lenses and spectacles. For example there are 5 items on contact lenses including one from Australia and a dozen of so on making spectacles and fashion spectacles from the 1950s. You can play the films online and pay to download them onto your own computer.

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How to date spectacles

A one page table to guide the dating of antique spectacles from eye shape, bridge design and temple (side) design with illustrations of the various identifying features.

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List of books on ophthalmic collecting and collections

A list of books of interest to ophthalmic collectors.

Buying ophthalmic antiques

This is a website that gives some general advice on how to buy ophthalmic antiques with a number of web sites from which you can buy online. Of course don't forget eBay.

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A History of Australian Optometry by Barry Cole

Book cover LRThis is an easy to read but thoroughly researched account of the evolution of Australian optometry over 200 years from 1800 to the present day. The story is set in the context of the invention of spectacles in 1286, the scientific advances of the 18th and 19th centuries and the evolution of optometry in the UK, the USA and Canada.

Published by the Australian College of Optometry, 2015, 320 pages, profusely illustrated in colour. ISBN 978-0-646-9392-2

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One Hundred Important ophthalmology books of the 20th Century

An annotated list of important 20th C ophthalmology books  compiled by H S Thompson MD and D L Blanchard MD. It is presented alphabetically by author and by sub-speciality and includes a number of optometry books. There is a downloadable printer friendly version in pdf. There is a lengthy commentary on why each book is important. A shorter version is published in Arch Ophthal 2001; 119: 761-763

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Aitken Collection of early ophthalmic books

This collection is held in the Nathan Library of the Australian College of Optometry. In includes over 150 significant books on optics, ophthalmology and optometry dating from the 17thC to recent times. The collection can also be listed or searched using the Kett Museum catalogue on this site by searching item category "Book" sub-category "significant books (Aitken)"

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J Lloyd Hewett Collection on the history of optometry and ophthalmology

This collection is more than just books on ophthalmic history: it also includes books on the philosophy of perception, on visual illusions, on the effect of the visual impairments of artists on their art and other off-beat subjects related to seeing.  There are quite a number of picture books in the collection about spectacle frames and changing fashions in their design. It includes the monumental 11 volume "History of Ophthalmology" by Julius Hirschberg. The collection is held in the Nathan Library of the Australian College of Optometry. The contents of the collection can be listed or searched using the Kett Museum catalogue by searching item 

category "Books" sub-category "Hewett Collection"

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College of Optometrists (UK) rare and historical book collection

This is an annotated 235 page list of the rare and historical books in the College of Optometrists (UK) library. It is a 1 Mb pdf. Most of the great optical and ophthalmic books since the 16th C are in this collection.

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