Adaptive optics for ophthalmology pioneer Williams receives $500,000 Beckman-Argyros Award

David Williams, who pioneered adaptive optics technologies for ophthalmology, has received a prestigious award that includes $500,000.

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David Williams, who pioneered adaptive optics technologies for ophthalmology, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Beckman-Argyros Award in Vision Research. He serves as the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics, director of the Center for Visual Science, and dean for research in Arts, Science, and Engineering at the University of Rochester in New York.

Related: OCT, AO technologies and developers recognized for ophthalmology contributions

The award, bestowed by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation (Newport Beach, CA), rewards an individual who has made transformative breakthroughs in vision research. Williams will receive a total of $500,000, along with a solid gold commemorative medallion.

Adaptive optics was first developed by astronomers so that telescopes could see more clearly through the Earth’s atmosphere. The technologies that Williams and his group developed apply these techniques to the eye and make it possible to image individual retinal cells—including down to individual cone photoreceptors in the living human retina—by looking through the pupil. The techniques Williams’ group developed can not only modify the light leaving the eye to obtain better pictures of the retina, they can also modify the light going into the eye to produce better vision. This can improve vision in patients with contact lenses, intraocular lenses, and laser refractive surgery. For example, the methods Williams’ group developed are used in many of the LASIK procedures conducted worldwide today.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 and is a Fellow of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, OSA, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is the author of more than 100 papers and patents. In 2003, his adaptive optics "phoropter," which allows for more precise corrective lens prescriptions, was named one of R&D Magazine’s top 100 inventions of the year.

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