Support for Research

WCSM’s support for optical research is overseen by its Professorial Committee – a small group of eminent scientists and academics drawn from various UK universities and colleges.

The Company’s support for research through awarding medals is one example of its continuing commitment to the Company's original and fundamental purpose - the prevention and treatment of vision impairment.

Gold Medals

The Crook Medal

The Company’s Gold medal is named after Lord Crook, who was Chairman of the inter-departmental Committee on the Statutory Registration of Opticians whose work led to the establishment of the General Optical Council. Lord Crook was Master of the Company from 1963 to 1965. This highly prestigious award is given to honour “outstanding contributions to the understanding or improvement of vision” and has been presented on only ten occasions:

Sir Alan Hodgkin OM, FRS (1983) - for work that had increased understanding of the mechanism of conversion of light-energy patterns of the retinal image into electrical patterns which are transmitted to the brain.

Professor WD Wright DSc, ARCS, DIC (1985) - for research into colour vision, colour measurement and television.

Harold Ridley Esquire MD, FRCS, FRS, (later Sir Harold Ridley) (1987) - for pioneering work in lens implant techniques, and his important original contribution to tropical ophthalmology, particularly in onchocerciasis, nutrional amblyopia, keratomalacia in infants and ocular leprosy.

Professor Norman H Ashton CBE, DSc, FRCP, FRCS, FRS (1989) - for proving that the cause of bilateral blindness in premature babies was the high oxygen content in the incubators, and thereby eliminating what had been a tragic epidemic in the early 1950s.

Professor Horace Barlow MB, BCh, MD, ScD, FRS (1993) - for pioneering work on lateral inhibition in the vertebrate retina.

Professor Richard Langton Gregory CBE, MA, DSc, LLD, FRS (1996) - for his profound evaluations of the relationship between perception, especially visual perception, and the physical world.

Professor John Marshall BSc, PhD, FRCPath, Hon FCOptom, Hon FRCOphth, FLIA, FRSA (2001) – for his pioneering work with the utilisation of laser light in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular conditions and, in particular, the creation of laser refractive surgery.

Professor Colin Blakemore PhD, ScD, FIBiol, F Med Sci, FRS (2004) – for revolutionising understanding of the interactions between the eye and the brain, and the development of visual processing.

Professor John Mollon DSc, FRS (2008) – for revolutionizing our understanding of colour perception.

Professor Geoffrey Arden PhD MBBS FRCOphth (2017) – for his work on the electrophysiology of the eye.

Silver Medals

The Fincham Medal

The Silver medal was introduced in commemoration of the contribution to ophthalmic optics of brothers Walter and Edgar Fincham. The medal honours exceptional work by those who may be described as being “mid-career.” Five Fincham medals have been awarded, to:

Professor Neville McBrien PhD, FAAO, MCOptom, FBDO (1995) – for his research into myopia, and in particular how the abnormal growth of the eye is controlled in pathological myopia.

Dr Ian Flitcroft MA, DPhil, FRCOphth (2002) – for his research on human accommodation, especially the nature of the visual stimuli that drive accommodation and the relationship between binocular vision and accommodation reflex.

Professor Robin Ali PhD (2004) – for his pioneering work on gene therapy, which revealed that animal vision could be sustained and improved in animals with inherited retinal diseases by introducing normal genes using a viral vector.

Dr James Bainbridge PhD FRCOpth (2009) - for his successful trial of gene therapy in treating a particular form of genetically induced blindness in humans.

Professor Alan Stitt PhD (2017) – for his research on diabetic retinopathy and age-related retinal disease and his pioneering work on re-vascularising ischaemic retina.

Bronze Medals

Two Bronze Medals are awarded annually by the Spectacle Makers' Company.

Both the Bronze Medals are the subject of a competition, publicised among universities, colleges and medical and optical institutions each Spring.

Competition winners are invited to receive their medal at a lunch at Apothecaries' Hall, so that their work can be recognised and rewarded publicly by the Master, Wardens and Court of Assistants.