The eye, its wonders and imperfections explored by UJ scientist Professorial Inaugural address: Prof Alan Rubin

​Alan Rubin, a Professor in the Department of Optometry at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), will deliver his professorial inaugural address with the theme, The eye, its wonders and imperfections, in the the Council Chambers, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus on Tuesday, 5 August at 18:00.​​​​

Prof Rubin’s, one of only two NRF-rated scientists in South Africa in the field of optometry and a recipient of the JL Saks Literary Award for Optometric Writing, research focuses on the development of software to measure phenomena related to colour vision, eye movement, vision perception and the development of methods to evaluate, diagnose and treat vision-related problems.


With almost 60 papers in peer reviewed journals to his name, Prof Rubin’s work continues on a diverse range of topics relating to dioptric power and its analysis, binocular vision and colour vision.

He has presented at national and international conferences and supervised five research master’s degrees and one doctoral degree students. The doctoral candidate was the first black South African to receive his doctoral degree in optometry. Currently Prof Rubin is supervising a further seven postgraduates at master’s and doctoral levels.

Prof Rubin was the editor of the national accredited journal, The South African Optometrist, and was the editor of the journal, EyeCare Africa. He served on the Professional Board for Optometry and Dispensing Opticians of the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Abstract of the inaugural address by Prof Alan Rubin:

The eye, its wonders and imperfections

This presentation will begin by very broadly considering some of the wonders and imperfections of the eye such as hemi-achromatopsia and image blur. Then, the simple idea of stereo-pairs (the origin of which probably stems from Sir Charles Wheatstone and his stereoscope invented in about 1838) will be introduced and discussed to demonstrate their potential significance and utility. Suitable examples will be included that involve quantitative and graphical representation of dioptric power and refractive state in symmetric dioptric power space (that were important methodologies in terms of research towards my master’s degree), colour vision and colour behaviour and also surfaces of constant visual acuity (which was the topic for my doctoral degree with the supervision of Prof WF Harris).

Additionally, some critical equations and concepts, from Harris and others, will be very briefly described that are fundamental to proper analysis and representation of dioptric power and that constituted the basis of much of the research and other activities that I have been mainly involved with over the last two decades or so. Then the likely history and development of the eye over millions of years will be very briefly discussed with particular emphasis on the cornea, iris and pupil, crystalline lens and retina. Examples of physiological structures from the eyes of different phyla and species of life on Earth will be mentioned with suitable illustrations to provide some basic understanding of both the diversity and commonality of the eye and visual system across many diverse and supposedly dissimilar animals and creatures. Eye movements and the significance of heat maps will be acknowledged before considering imperfections of the eye in somewhat greater detail.

Such imperfections include imaging imperfections (due to scatter, diffraction and aberrations) and the use of the Zernike polynomial expansion, the generalized pupil function, point spread function (PSF) and modulation transfer function (MTF) will be considered with reference to a few simple graphical examples and some fundamental equations. Some aspects of exciting and recent scientific endeavours involving vision and their possible future implications will be alluded to through the use of an example involving artificial vision and a robotic guide dog that is being developed by scientists for severely visually-impaired or blind individuals.​

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