My father, Israel Edward Press, O.D., died on September 29 at the age of 95. Though he lived a long and full life, going through his personal effects reminded me of the valuable generation that we have lost. I grew up with Optometry in our home, my father having hung his shingle from the side of our house. He dabbled in visual training sufficiently for him to promote it on window signage outside the office.
Aside from the old photographs, I found a book published in 1986 that I had given to my father in 1991. It was simply titled: “ISRAEL”, subtitled “A foreign-born optometrist looks back on his American Dream”. My father wasn’t foreign born; he was born in Philadelphia. The subject of this book is a different Israel, by the last name of Dvoriansky – a Russian immigrant who changed his name to Dvorine upon receiving his optometric license around the same time that my father was born.
Dvorine was well known in his day for developing pseudoisochromtic plates for color vision testing. Not as well known is the fact that he published a book on Analytical Refraction and Orthoptics in the late 1930s that sold over 10,000 copies! What got Dvorine interested in orthoptics? He shares that with us on page 55 of ISRAEL:
“The year of 1926 was a monumental year in my career as an optometrist. An optometric lecturer came to Baltimore and stayed in our city for an entire week. He presented a new theory on ‘Functional Eye Changes’ that affect vision and in many cases require lenses to correct the problems. Many need special eye exercises and other need eyeglasses for close seeing only, regardless of how good their distant vision is without glasses. I had been thinking along those lines for some time, but I needed the brilliant mind and gift of tongue of Dr. A.M. Skeffington to visualize the new vista that he opened before us who attended his lectures.”
Dvorine became so interested in the concept of “eye exercises” that he began writing and innovating in the field. He put his innate artistic talents to good use in developing Dvorine Animated Fusion Charts for use with the stereoscope. As you can see, these charts were uniquely colorful, and had a wheel that one could turn to add the element of motion to fusional activities. It is an era that is now gone, but should not be forgotten.