“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
                    
                                                                                - Isaac Newton (1642–1727)

 

Pioneers in Bioptic Driving

Only by understanding the efforts, courage and genius of those who blazed the paths in bioptic driving, can we appreciate what has been accomplished. This section honors those scientists, clinicials and early drivers who created the foundation of this field. These brief bios and histories will be updated as we learn more stories of these early pioneers. We welcome submission from those involved in the early days of bioptic driving.


 

 William Feinbloom, O.D. Ph.D.

William Feinbloom is the father of low vision care in the United States and
the
first to suggest the concept of bioptic driving.

  

Dr. William Feinbloom pioneered the field of low vision rehabilitation in the United States. His interest in vision was spurred as a young boy in Brooklyn as he helped out in his father’s optometric practice. Dr. Feinbloom followed in his father’s footsteps in optometry receiving a degree from Columbia School of Optometry in 1923 and began practicing in Buffalo, N.Y.

In 1932, at age 28 while examining a visually impaired patient he became frustrated that he had no methods to help this elderly gentleman. He used an astronomers telescope as a model to design a small 3X power telescope, which was small enough that he could mount it in a spectacle frame. This restored the man’s functional vision. This case became the catalyst for his pioneering life work in low vision care.

In 1933, he published an import paper in low vision presenting his first 500 low vision cases. He soon opened a low vision practice in New York City. By 1939, he had earned his doctorate in physiologic optics. He thus began an unparalleled career inventing numerous optical systems to help the visually impaired.

In 1958 he introduced to the USA, the concept of a bioptic telescopic system (BTS) that combined a prescription eyewear lens with a small Galilian telescopic system mounted within. He was the first to present the idea of bioptic driving at a session on Contact Lenses and Subnormal Vision at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in December of 1958. 

Feinbloom's bioptic system allowed the patient to easily change view from the telescope to the general prescription. This became the breakthrough that would eventually lead to bioptic driving. After introducing the concept of bioptic driving Dr. Feinbloom worked over the next two decades to educate doctors on how his invention could help many mildly visually impaired patients drive.

In 1977 Feinbloom presented results from 300 bioptic drivers showing no accidents causing bodily injury or significant property damage. 

He reported that his innovations came from “clinical work and many failure” and in a 1983 interview he stated; "Each failure taught me a new need and was nurtured in my unconscious until somehow it gave birth to a new development."

 His low vision inventions have helped thousand of visually impaired invidivuals lead more normal lifes. Dr. Feinblooms mentoring of Dr. Korb and Dr. Randy Jose lead to their important contributions to the field.  Dr. Feinblooms genius would a spawn a generation  of low vision doctors that havechange the lives of thousand of patients.

 

 

Donald Korb, O.D.

 Author of the first published study of bioptic driving.
One of the world's outstanding scientist clinician.


Following a brief informal internship with Dr. William Feinbloom, Dr. Korb begin ot work in the area of bioptic driving. His landmark paper published in 1970, "Preparing the Visually Handicapped Person for Motor Vehicle Operation" was the first scientific study to present the fitting of visually impaired patients for bioptic driving.  Dr. Korb also worked behind the scenes with the Massachusetts driver licensing authority to obtain provisional licenses for these patients.  

Dr. Korb has gone on to become one of our professions outstanding clinician scientists. He has been an enormous force in our understanding of surface eye disease, the cornea in contact lens wear, the development of soft contact lenses, treatment of keratoconus disease  and in the development of new treatments for dry eye. It is rare that one individual publishes a landmark paper on any subject. Dr. Korb has  been responsible for not only publishing the first paper on bioptic driving but he has published the seminal papers on central corneal clouding in contact lens wear, on lid attachment contact lens fitting and on the role of meibomian gland dysfunction in dry eye. He has published over 75 articles in peer reviewed journals and has been awarded 25 U.S. patents with 10 more patents pending.

 

 

Dennis Kelleher Ed.D. 

The First Licensed Bioptic Driver in California and Pioneering Advocate,
Writer and Lecturer on Bioptic Driving


Learn about Dennis Kelleher, the first bioptic driver in California, who had the courage to be a pioneer and do what others thought was not possible. He not only became a licensed bioptic driver, but became a leader and advocate for bioptic driving at a crucial time in its beginning. He was not just the first California driver but also lectured and published on bioptic driving. He is truly one of bioptic driving's pioneers. Dr. Kelleher also spent a carrier in the area of Special Education serving with the California Department of Education. Dr. Kelleher has published a number of articles on bioptic driving presenting the important view of a bioptic driver at a crucial time in the development of bioptic driving. In 1984 Dr. Kelleher's  published an account of his personal experience with bioptic driving.

 

 

 

William Beecher Ph.D. and Fred Mitchell

The Inventors of the Beecher Mirage


The Beecher Mirage is a type of lightweight binocular that has been used by many low vision patients. Many patients wear the system for bioptic driving owing to the outstanding Keplerian optics. Two individual from outside the ophthalmic community are responsible for its development. I met Dr. Beecher in the 1980s and soon we began using these amazing  binoculars. For the next two decades, we interacted with Fred Mitchell.

Beecher Research Company, or most recently changed to Beecher Optical Products, Inc., was due to Dr. William Beecher’s interest in nature photography.  He was the Director of the Chicago Academy of Sciences for 25 years.  A photographer, ecologist, ornithologist, writer and inventor, he spent hours stalking birds of all kinds. Each year, Dr. Beecher went on a month long photographic safari to gather ideas and material that had governed his passion in life. This led him to the goal of developing  lighter weight and wearable binoculars to replace the heavy and cumbersome traditional binoculars. With his knowledge of optics, he spent hours assembling a device, but needed someone to prototype it, and through a mutual friend, met Fred Mitchell.  

Fred Mitchell was a Tool and Die Maker.  He owned his own business, A&F Die Mold for 13 years, followed by a partnership company for 6 years. Fred agreed to develop a prototype set of wearable binoculars. it took three years of trial and error before there was a viable prototype. With Fred’s expertise in plastics, it provided him the knowledge necessary to design the housing of the binoculars.  Dr. Beecher and Mr. Mitchell intended to market the binoculars for bird watchers until one day, a business contact who had macular degeneration, picked up the prototype and was amazed because she could see things clearly for the first time in years.  Fred never envisioned his work would lead him to manufacture a device that aids individuals with low eyesight. This was the start of the Beecher Mirage!

For the last 22 years until his death in 2009, Fred owned and operated Beecher Research Company and manufacturered the Beechers for the visually impaired. Through the years and many challenges, Fred and Dr. Beecher developed binoculars system that are lightweight, a hands-free unit that comes in 3x, 4.5x, 5.5x, 6x, 7x and 8x powers.

Over the past two decades Fred traveled diligently around the United States to optometric meeting and to low vision practices to introduce  the Beecher Mirage models. Those of us who new Fred found him to be a kind and gracious ambassader for Beecher Research.

Both Dr. Beecher and Fred Mitchell envisioned a dream and although it went in a completely different direction, they both made a significant mark on people’s lives. Dr. William Beecher passed away in 2002 at the age of 88. Fred Mitchell passed away on February 14, 2009 at the age of 74. Beecher Optical Products, Inc., is now located in Huntley, IL.  His wife, Carol, and son, Brent, who joined the company seventeen years ago, now manage it.

 


 

 


The Low Vision Centers of Indiana

Richard L. Windsor O.D., F.A.A.O., D.P.N.A.P.
Craig Allen Ford O.D., F.A.A.O.
Laura Kathleen Windsor. O.D., F.A.A.O.