Obituary: Professor Ron Mallett

Professor Bruce Evans and Robert Pilgrim remember Professor Ron Mallett

Professor Ron Mallett and friends

OT is sad to report the death of Professor Ron Mallett, who died on 4 December.

Calling Professor Mallett a “true innovator in optometry who contributed so much to our understanding of clinical binocular vision anomalies,” Professor Bruce Evans and Robert Pilgrim remember the academic.

“Ronald Mallett qualified as an optometrist in 1952 and started working at the London Refraction Hospital (LRH) in 1958, which years later became the Institute of Optometry. In those days, many optometrists worked as volunteers in the LRH clinics to gain experience, learn from luminaries of the profession and provide eye care to a needy population.

“Ron started as one of these volunteers, working three nights a week. He also continued studying and gained a Diploma in Orthoptics in about 1962.
“After he had been at the LRH for three years, Ron started teaching and by the early 1960s he was one of the elite group of full time staff at the LRH. He continued as a senior lecturer there until his retirement in 1992. His expertise in binocular vision and orthoptics led to his appointment as a visiting lecturer at City, University of London. He taught orthoptics there for 20 years and at the LRH for over 30 years.

“Ron became widely respected by all who worked with him for his outstanding skills as a clinician. Many well-known optometrists owe, at least in part, their knowledge and interest in orthoptics to Ron, including myself, Ronald Rabbetts, Richard Pearson, Michael Banes, Geoff Roberson, and Professors Michel Millodot, David Edgar, David Thomson, Mark Bullimore, and Lyndon Jones. This list is but a sample of the countless people he taught. Many young clinicians were inspired by Ron’s analytical approach to the subject, questioning received wisdom and emphasising practical clinical approaches. In 1972 Ron took a sabbatical in the US where he was a visiting professor at the Optometry School at Indiana Univrsity for two semesters. He also lectured at Berkeley and Houston universities and in other countries including South Africa.
“Ron is perhaps best known for the equipment he invented, which adorns virtually every optometric consulting room in the UK and in many other countries. He started building his own optical equipment when he was training and produced the first Mallett Unit in 1964. Over many decades he continued to develop distance and near vision orthoptic tests and test charts, most famously his fixation disparity test, which is still supplied by Keeler. This equipment has greatly simplified the diagnosis of decompensated heterophoria and must have helped many thousands of patients over the years.
“Ron was a prolific author, concentrating on clinical publications. He authored over 25 articles and book chapters. This is a phenomenal achievement in the days before word processors, especially considering that for much of his career he was working as a clinician five and a half days and three evenings a week. The fact that many of these papers were written through the night would surprise those who read the articles and are impressed by the clarity with which they demystified an often-misunderstood topic.

“In 2014, in recognition of his contribution to optometry Ron was awarded a Lifetime Fellowship of the College of Optometrists.
“Ron lived for many years near Brentwood in Essex and continued throughout his retirement in maintaining an interest in optometry. He remained in touch with some of the clinicians and lecturers who owe their interest and solid grounding in such a fascinating subject to this most knowledgeable and thoughtful clinician, innovator, and teacher.”