Obituary: Peter A Smith

Tributes to former AOP stalwart and historian

Peter Smith

OT is sad to report the death of optometrist Peter A Smith, who worked for the AOP for many years and received an OBE in 2010 for services to optometry.

Mr Smith was optometric adviser to the AOP from 1986, and then became its deputy secretary (clinical) from 1990–96. He was the author of A history of the AOP: The first fifty years, which was published in 1996.

Mr Smith was married to a fellow optometrist and former AOP Councillor, Nora Bradley and, when he retired from the AOP, he joined her in an independent practice in Huddersfield.

He is remembered at the AOP for his ‘encyclopedic knowledge’ of the rules relating to General Ophthalmic Services, which was a big help to AOP members. When he left the AOP, he became optometric adviser to a number of local optical committees (LOCs).

Past Chairman of the AOP and past chairman of Calderdale and Kirklees LOC, Rena Souten, told OT: “Peter was the first optometric adviser in Calderdale and Kirklees. He worked collaboratively with the primary care trust and the LOC to develop the NHS sight test protocol which is still in place.”

Ms Souten added: “Peter had an analytical mind and he was very keen on regulations. He was a mine of information on regulations and prided himself on keeping all his papers archived. Indeed, if you wanted a paper copy of most of the regulations that govern UK optometry then one’s first port of call was Peter and Nora’s loft or garage.”

Mr Smith was a committee member of the influential campaigning Optical Whitley Council from 1966. He was elected to the British Optical Association (BOA) council from 1967 and went on to serve as its treasurer from 1970–72. He was its last ever secretary, from 1972 to the disbanding of the association in 1980.

Yorkshire Optical Society secretary, John Goacher, said: “Older members of the society, like me, will have first met Peter as secretary of the BOA and some of us have fellowship certificates signed by him. Younger members will remember him as a fine clinician and a wise counsellor after he came to Yorkshire to be with Nora.”

Mr Smith served as the first academic secretary of the new British College of Ophthalmic Opticians, now the College of Optometrists, until the end of 1981.

During his time there, he was also a driving force, with Professor Robert Fletcher, behind the formation of the Applied Vision Association (AVA) in 1977.

It was a multi-disciplinary organisation aiming to promote and advance the application of research work in all areas relating to vision, including clinical, industrial and defence. Its members were drawn from physics, engineering, physiology, psychology and ergonomics, as well as optometry.

Mr Smith was also secretary of the International Optometric and Optical League, now the World Council of Optometry. He remained its honorary secretary until the mid 1980s and afterwards was given the title, emeritus secretary. He is credited with having boosted the organisation’s political role and helping to secure its finances.

At the AOP, he was secretary of its Membership Services Committee. He was also secretary of its Occupational Visual Welfare Committee. The Committee became the Clinical and Technical Committee and part of its remit was sports vision.

When it was felt sport vision was becoming very complex and AOP staff could not do it justice in the time available, it was suggested that a new organisation should be established and this became the Sports Vision Association (SVA). Mr Smith was secretary of the original SVA, which was established in 1993 with Don Loran as chairman.

The managing director of SVUK, Geraint Griffiths, who worked with SVA, said: “I remember Peter saying in the middle of one of the conferences he had organised, ‘I'm just letting it wash over me.’ Each one of these conferences was a huge organisational achievement and I now understand that the best feeling is when there is nothing more you can do.”

Mr Griffiths added: “It was through the dedication of Peter and Don over a 10-year period on a largely voluntary basis that we were able to make scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of sport and school vision, which are now achieving international significance.

“The most important thing from the start in this country was the application of scientific rigour to research.”

“I think the country and the profession owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter for his many years of service,” he concluded.

Mr Smith is survived by his wife Nora, his son Andrew and daughter Alison, as well as grand and great grandchildren.