From its inception in 1891 as The Optician, the publication we now call Review of Optometry has been and will continue to be an informative friend to optometrists, an advocate for the advancement of the profession and a mentor providing practical and useful knowledge.  

In marking this 125th anniversary, we are not taking the opportunity to pat ourselves on the back. Rather, this retrospective gives us—and hopefully, you—an opportunity to recollect the many accomplishments and successes that the profession has made in the past century and a quarter, which have been reflected and even presaged in the pages of this publication. 

• Your Friend. “We like to feel that the Journal [The Optical Journal and Review of Optometry] enters the offices and home of its thousands of readers throughout the world as a friend, carrying the latest tidings of happenings and developments in their profession and business; with helpful information, inspiring suggestions; a friend who tells them the views of their co-workers in every field of optical activity, and whose teaching and educational work extends to all parts of the world.” 

Those words were written in the editorial page in April 1922, and they still apply today. Every month in the mail, and every day on the Internet, Review arrives with timely information and insights from your colleagues in the United States and abroad. 

A Very Dead-icated Reader

“I have been reading the old Optical Review, then later the Optical Journal and Review of Optometry for the past 36 years and look forward to its regular visits. It has not only made me a better practitioner, but its high ideals have made me a better man, and I hope to continue reading until I pass over the Great Divide.”
letter from Dr. E.H. Murray, of Pulaski, Tenn., published in the December 1, 1934 issue.

• Your Advocate. The same 1922 editorial noted that Review is not just a well-informed friend, but also an advocate to encourage and further the profession: 

“Our early issues show that we took an active part in starting and fostering the movement which has brought about optometry laws in every state and in other countries. The very title of the new profession, the terms optometry and optometrist, were first recorded in print in our pages, and this magazine gave the impetus that resulted in the general adoption of the terms by the profession,” wrote the editor of that 1922 edition. “These are illustrations of the part that the magazine has taken, not only in recording what takes place, but in doing its part for the advancement of the profession and industry.” For those looking for more on the origins of the word optometry, and our role in it, see “We Shall be Known as Optometrists.”

• Your Mentor. In the very early days of optometry, clinical education was nearly nonexistent. There were no CE providers, no demonstration videos on YouTube, no social media platforms to trade clinical tips and professional advice—there weren’t even any optometry schools. 

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Founding editor Frederick Boger aimed to change all that by delivering the latest “how-to” information that went beyond dry, abstract textbooks. “The textbooks are excellent enough in their way,” Mr. Boger stated in the very first issue in 1891. “But they treat more with generalities than with actualities.”

A “technical journal” like Review of Optometry “has the advantage over the textbook in knowing all that the textbook has taught and applying that knowledge to daily occurrences,” he wrote. From that first issue and in every issue since, Review has striven to provide up-to-date, nuts-and-bolts information that you can use right away to treat your patients and improve your practice. 

What follows are just a few selections that illustrate Review’s long-standing history of reporting important issues in optometry and providing practical clinical information. It is with “pardonable pride” (as Frederick Boger put it) that we revisit some of these excerpts. 

Guidepost to Primary Care

Has it been only recently that optometrists learned to treat not just the eye but the whole patient? Not even close. As optometry progressively advanced from an optical occupation toward a primary care profession, Review has been at the forefront—starting as long as a century ago. In an effort to provide education beyond the eye, articles explained systemic infectious disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and countless other subjects that regarded the patient as much more than the next eyeglass customer. 

In 1957, for example, well before the current diabetes epidemic, the magazine published a comprehensive overview of the examination of patients with diabetes mellitus. Tellingly subtitled “An Optometric Responsibility,” the article covered all ocular manifestations of diabetes known at that time, as well as systemic signs and symptoms and when to refer. 

“It is most important to remember that the level of blood sugar at any given point in time is not directly related to the occurrence of eye lesions,” wrote author Gilbert Goldenberg, OD, of Paterson, NJ. “Rather, the length of time that the blood sugar has been elevated is the important factor.” 

Such advice may seem elementary now, but it was likely eye-opening to optometrists in the mid-20th century. 

‘Pioneer’ Women in Optometry

For a long, long time, optometry has been a man’s profession. But, back in 1940—when only 3.6% of all registered optometrists were women—Review helped raise the banner to encourage the participation of women in optometry. 

“Chicago, with a population of more than 3,000,000 people, has only 35 women optometrists; New York City with over 6,000,000 has only 20,” wrote optometrist Arene T. Wray, of Los Angeles, in her 1940 article about the formation of an optometric women’s society. 

“The type of women who could be attracted to Optometry, if it were presented to them, would most likely be a credit and benefit to the profession,” Dr. Wray predicted. “They would be college women, interested in science and scientific work rather than the arts, and of a caliber that could meet and surmount all the difficulties that beset pioneers in any field.” 

Just two years later, Review editor Maurice E. Cox wrote in the October 1942 issue that “the drain of war on male youth […] will make it essential that definite appeal to women students be made at once.” 

But women were not mere stand-ins in the exam lane while men fought in World War II, Mr. Cox noted. “Though their number is limited, the women of optometry have made bright names for themselves […] They have been outstanding in their own right, as practitioners, in the educational field, and in organizational affairs,” he wrote. 

Dollars and Sense

Like it or not, money has always been something of a driver in optometry’s journey. The first attempt to pass an optometry licensure law was a result, in part, of Charles Prentice charging a fee for an eye exam.1 Again in 1919, optometrist Fred Baker, in cahoots with the AOA, chose to be arrested for charging for an exam in order to force Texas to pass the much-needed licensure law.2  

While optometrists fought for the right to charge for their expertise, other revenue sources continued to muddy the waters, namely product sales. A 1939 Optical Journal and Review of Optometry contributor argued for charging a single fee for both the service and the product, while another argued for separate fees, suggesting that, “as long as Optometry is practiced in jewelry and department stores, […] the public will consider it a merchandise proposition.”3,4 

Optometry saw a huge shift when it won parity with ophthalmology in the Medicare program in October 1986.5 A few months later, the March 1987 cover story “Are You Ready for Medicare?” advises: “We have to get in the habit of billing for diagnosis and management. We must adopt the idea that our job is to diagnose and manage patients.”6 Not all that different from the days of the first legal battles, how and for what optometrist got paid helped define the practice. 

While optometry’s inclusion in the Medicare program was a huge battle won, the profession continues to struggle with money matters. Online glasses and contact lens suppliers are reminding the optometrists of 2016 about the need to secure a revenue base that draws on their decisions, not their dispensaries.

It seems history is doomed to repeat itself; luckily optometrists refuse to let money get in the way of what is essential to their practice: patient care.

1. Goss DA. Landmarks in the History of Optometry. Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History. 2007;38(2):47-52.  
2. Bennet I. Optometrist Jailed for Charging an Exam Fee. Hindsight: Journal of Optometry History. 2010 Oct;41(4):106-8
3. Prismus. Points of the service fee—eyeglass cost problem. Optical Journal-Review. 1939;76(2):24-5.
4. Old Timer. The service fee—correction cost problem. Optical Journal-Review. 1939;76(8):23.
5. Medicare: Parity at Last. Review of Optometry. 123(11):5.
6. Margaretten M. Are You Ready for Medicare. Review of Optometry. 124(3):37-38.

Three-quarters of a century later—as women are set to outnumber men in the profession—Mr. Cox’s prescient words are more true than ever. For more on the rise of women in optometry, see "Days of Diversity."

Contact Lenses Come of Age

It’s 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression—could there be a worse time to convince patients to take off their safe, affordable spectacles and stick expensive ground glass lenses on their eyes? 

“Contact lenses, when accurately fitted and made according to prescription, can in many cases be worn for hours at a time without discomfort,” wrote Davis Bronson, MS, of Brooklyn, NY, in that year’s “An Introduction to Contact Lenses”—the first of innumerable articles on contacts to appear in Review

Very likely unaware of the impending and enormous contact lens industry, Mr. Bronson concluded with something of an understatement: “There is a large number of patients to whom contact lenses offer ideal corrective aid.”

Then again, considering the long and bumpy road that clinicians faced in introducing and prescribing contact lenses to patients, Mr. Bronson’s statement was more than optimistic. Even among optometrists in those days, many believed that contact lenses would never amount to anything more than a specialty item. 

“So far we have had too little experience with them to warrant any rash prophecy,” wrote Otto Haussmann, secretary of the Philadelphia Society of Optometrists, in a 1941 letter to the editor. “In high myopic cases, and more especially in cases of conical cornea, contact lenses undoubtedly have their advantages, but we need not fear that because of their use we will experience any marked decline in the demand for spectacles.”

Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. Optometry’s critical role in contact lens development is profiled in "Contact Lenses: A Perfect Fit for Optometry."

Ophthalmologists ‘Play Ball’

For most of the history of the profession, optometrists have (and still do) weigh themselves largely in relation to ophthalmologists. In many ways, both good and bad, optometry’s identity has often been entwined with—and defined in comparison to—ophthalmology. And this complicated relationship has played out on the pages of Review since the beginning. 

In 1934, only a dozen or so years after optometry practice laws were passed in all states, then-editor Frederick McGill predicted ophthalmology would soon come to recognize optometry as an independent profession:

“Narrow and selfish-minded individuals, largely because of the spirit of loyalty among medical men, have thus far been able to keep the old quarrel alive, but this will end in time,” Mr. McGill wrote. “Organized medicine will then ‘play ball’ with optometry, to the benefit of both professions and to the corresponding benefit of the public, in the better services that will be developed by such cooperation.” 

Although it likely took much longer than he expected, Mr. McGill’s prediction eventually came to pass—at least for the most part. Early comanagement booster Paul Ajamian, OD, contemplates the current state of the relationship in "How Comanagement Reinvented Optometry."

The Drug Problem

Currently, optometrists in every state can prescribe therapeutic drugs. ODs in nearly all states can prescribe oral drugs (including narcotics). Many can perform injections and minor procedures, and optometrists in three states can even use lasers in some cases. 

Don’t take these privileges for granted, because things weren’t always this way. In fact, optometrists fought within their ranks for decades against the use of drugs. As long ago as 1931—45 years before West Virginia became the first state to pass a therapeutic drug law—letters to the editor denounced “restless and unhappy” optometrists who suggested expanding the profession into medical care.  

Even as late as the 1960s and 1970s, many optometrists opposed expanding optometry’s scope of practice to include therapeutics and primary care. 

“Younger optometrists who are unfamiliar with the history of the profession seem unaware that Ohio’s medical board actually did license some optometrists as medical ancillaries in the earlier part of this century,” wrote S. Drucker, OD, in a 1960 commentary article. “A historic lawsuit in Pennsylvania [in 1914] opposing this move by ophthalmologists was won only because optometrists could prove their methods were drugless and, therefore, not directly related to medical practice.”

Dr. Drucker concluded, “Optometry colleges should indoctrinate students to take pride in the drugless nature of the profession and to stop looking longingly at a profession whose triumphs, though glittering, are often ephemeral.” 

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In a similar 1971 opinion piece, optometrist George T. Warren stated: “I still stick to the classic dictum that a ‘lens is not a pill’ and that optometry should not slither into the family of those using nostrums and knives […] To attempt to change State laws and acquire medical powers, even the most limited, would certainly stir up a hornet’s nest.”

Dr. Warren was certainly right about stirring up the hornet’s nest. Nevertheless, the “restless and unhappy” optometrists persevered and the first therapeutic drug law finally passed in 1976. 

Review reported the response of John David Janney, OD, then-president of the West Virginia Optometric Association: “This legislation is not intended to make us into ophthalmologists. We know our limitations. We do not equate our training with that of an ophthalmologist. Our primary concern is the delivery of the finest care we can provide, consistent with our training.” The long, stormy history of scope of practice battles is detailed in "Legalizing Optometry."

For the past 125 years, Review of Optometry has stood at your side as your friend, your advocate and your mentor to help you provide your finest care. It is the most widely circulated and most read optometric publication, as it has been for as long as such statistics have been measured. Optometry has come very far from its humble roots, and Review will be there as the profession advances into the future.