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Emeritus Professor Robert Fletcher remembered

Dr Janet Voke pays tribute to the life and work of her father

04 Oct 2019 by John White

Emeritus Professor Robert Jackson Fletcher died on 5 August 2019 aged 94. Dr Janet Voke pays tribute to the life and work of her father.

"Robert Jackson Fletcher was born on 12 July 1925 in Twickenham, Middlesex, where his father practised as an independent optometrist for over 50 years. His father had trained at the Northampton Polytechnic, London (which became City University in 1966) where son Bob, as he liked to be known, would follow, and later where I would take degrees in visual sciences.

"Following qualifications and registration as an optometrist and a Masters research degree at Manchester University department of ophthalmic optics, he worked in practice with his father before pursuing teaching and research in London where he remained for the remainder of his career, rising to Professor and head of department for over two decades at City University. He became the first professor of optometry outside of the USA when appointed in 1966.

"Bob was invited in 1957 to the USA to lecture in several established university departments of optometry and physiological optics where he met a multi-disciplinary group of researchers, optometrists, physiologists and neuro-psychologists. The American model extending beyond the clinical domain made a strong impact on Bob who returned determined to incorporate the rigour of visual science into the degree courses which he was responsible for establishing as the first optometry degrees outside the USA. The Northampton College of Advanced Technology in London gained university status in 1966 and Bob’s influence as the first UK professor in the subject extended beyond the confines of London as additional university departments of optometry became established in the UK and later abroad, principally through his guidance acting as external advisor and examiner.

"From the 1980s into retirement Bob was invited to liaise with heads of government health departments around the world to advise on the establishment of eye training courses.

"Over a career spanning 70 years, Bob was a writer of over 150 publications, reviewing hundreds of scholarly texts, often for OT, and writing 16 textbooks.

"He pioneered the early scleral contact lenses with his fellow-student and lifelong friend, Norman Bier. He designed the Mavis Vision Screen in 1960, one of the earliest screeners for industry, schools and professions, and was called upon as an expert witness in several court cases.

"In the UK, he played a major role as chief examiner for the professional BOA examinations and acted as president for this organisation and the colour group. He was a major initiator of the Applied Vision Association set up by the BOA.

"Abroad he set up optometry courses in 12 countries and lectured in over 20.

"Bob developed three editions of the City University Colour Vision test from 1980, which is still used worldwide to screen for professions and occupations where accurate colour recognition can be vital.

"In 2000, Bob won a national competition to design a new lantern test to replace the Board of Trade model to examine and diagnose mariners, aircrew both military and civilian for colour vision deficiencies. This was marketed as the CAM Lantern and has found widespread use.

"Bob was known for his strong Christian faith which guided his whole life, in particular his generosity and kindness to his international students at times of need.

"He leaves daughters Janet and Isobel. His wife, Muriel, predeceased him by three weeks aged 94 years."

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