Neal J. Bailey, OD, PhD, FAAO 1917-2006
JOSEPH T. BARR, OD, MS, FAAO, EDITOR
Neal Bailey, founding editor
of Contact Lens Forum in 1976 and the founding editor of Contact Lens
Spectrum in 1986, died on Christmas eve.
an optometry student in the mid-1970s I had heard of Dr. Bailey but would not meet
him until a few years later. When I received my first issue of Contact Lens Forum
as a fourth year optometry student who was keenly interested in contact lenses,
I was most awed by his presence as the editor. I would soon read every word of every
issue as the years went by.
In the spring of 1944, Neal and
his devoted wife, Flo, stood before an Army major as he was once again rejected
for military service, but this time for a different reason. He was working at a
steel foundry vital to the defense industry and President Roosevelt couldn't draft
him for duty elsewhere according to a new edict. The first time that he volunteered
for duty was October 1941. After spending the day without clothing while being processed
in a drafty recruitment center, he was told that he was 4F: Poor Vision. He had
quite a bit of astigmatism.
This experience was one of many
reasons why he was eager to attend Ohio State University in the fall of 1944. After
receiving his BS in Optometry summa cum laude in 1947, he practiced in Escanaba,
Michigan, until he returned to OSU. Back at OSU he earned his PhD in Physiological
Optics in 1954 with the renowned vision scientist Glenn Fry as his mentor. He taught
at Indiana University, became a close friend of Irv Borish, OD, from Kokomo, Ind.,
and created a contact lens teaching facility at IU. In 1958 he returned to Columbus
to private practice at 15th and High Streets near the OSU campus and to make and
document contact lens history.
where I really got to know him well. Neal was a precise, organized and uncompromising
optometrist and businessman, yet he was one of the most comfortable people to be
with you would ever meet. Neal called it like he saw it. He didn't have an instrument
or device in his office that he hadn't either made by hand or modified to make it
I worked in his office part time
in the late 1970s. His records and letters were thorough and ahead of their time.
His lab and his contact lens technician could make a perfect finished lens from
an uncut in about 10 minutes and he could take a lens and put grooves or channels
in it or double truncate it with exactness and efficiency. His early soft lenses
all were etched with a diamond to make sure they were identifiable. He hated it
when you dropped a contact lens. Saturday mornings he'd see about 20 patients, half
of which were keratoconic or aphakic. He'd get frustrated but was relentless in
his excellence. Flo was his office manager and ever-present travel companion.
At optometric meetings, he
always sat in the front row, took pictures, made tapes and asked the good questions
to clarify the complex information. He was also an adjunct clinical associate professor
at OSU before Irv Bennett, OD, suggested that he become the first Editor of Contact
Len Forum in May 1976. He later started Contact Lens Spectrum in January
1986, a journal that later absorbed the former Contact Lens Forum as well.
Neal always made sure to deal
with misleading issues head on. For example, in the early years of the belief that
contact lenses corrected all astigmatism, he published on residual astigmatism.
In the early days of thinking that PMMA lenses stabilized myopia progression, he
explained the many ways that contact lenses were typically over-minused. Later with
Richard Hill, OD, PhD, he showed how fenestrated PMMA lenses really didn't do much
to improve corneal oxygenation and that soft contact lenses really did accumulate
Two of my favorite Neal Bailey
quotes are "we've known that for years" and, when someone would disagree with something
he or someone else said in Contact Lens Spectrum he would say, "Well then,
I think you should send us a letter or article about that." Neal always thought
there were many versions of the truth about contact lenses and wanted to make sure
everyone knew them. Two of his more famous quotes were "silicone contact lenses
are the lens of the future and always will be," and his definition of the holecon contact lens a 9mm lens with a 10mm central
I'm so grateful he and Larry
Henry decided I should follow him as the editor of Contact Lens Spectrum
and that he spent all those hours with me explaining how to do this. He was one
of the best writers I've ever met.
Neal J. Bailey brought distinction
to his profession as demonstrated by his awards from every major professional organization
in his field including the Contact Lens Person of the Year Award by the American
Optometric Association Contact Lens and Cornea Section, the Max Shapero Memorial
Lecture and Founders Award by the American Academy of Optometry Section on Cornea
and Contact Lenses, the Josef Dallos Award for significant contributions to the
contact lens field by the Contact Lens Manufacturers Association, as well as the
Kevin Tuohy Award from the Contact Lens Society of America.
He authored more than 120 articles
and chapters on contact lenses and practice management and was one of the clinical
investigators of the soft contact lens in the United States. Neal was always brutally
honest about contact lenses, their manufacturers, colleagues and the economics of
optometry, eye health and the contact lens industry. Thus, many in the field trusted
him and sought his counsel and advice. He was a great historian.
He is our college's major benefactor.
He honored Dr. Glenn Fry by supporting a professorship as well as the Neal J. and
Florence E. Bailey Endowed Scholarship to Optometry established in 1995. He bequeathed
his home and office in a charitable remainder unitrust to the university when he
officially retired for the last time in 1996.
In his final years after Flo
died and he moved from Columbus, he lived with his loving daughter Nancy in Laredo,
miss you Neal.
Contact Lens Spectrum, Issue: February 2007