WCO History & History of Optometry

2017 marks the WCO’s 90 year anniversary. Please join us as we celebrate the rich history of the WCO, the overall profession of optometry, and the dedicated eye care professionals worldwide who have made, and continue to make, this great profession what it is today.

Past WCO Presidents

The WCO expresses its deepest appreciation to the following WCO presidents who have served, and continue to serve, over the past 90 years and beyond:

Mr. John H. Sutcliffe (UK) 1927-1940
Sir William Champness (UK) 1947-1953
Mr. George Giles (UK) 1953-1965
Mr. Reginald Goode (UK) 1965-1971
Mr. George A. Wheatcroft (UK) 1971-1980
Dr. David Pickwell (UK) 1980-1986
Dr. G. Burt Holmes (USA) 1986-1992
Mr. Peter Roost (Switzerland) 1992-1994
Dr. Roland Des Crosseillers (Canada) 1994 -1996
Mr. Manfred Muller (Germany) 1996-1998
Mr. Peter Stevenson (New Zealand) 1998 -2000
Dr. Scott Brisbin (Canada) 2000-2002
Mr. Damien Smith (Australia) 2002 -2004
Professor DD Sheni (SA) 2004-2006
Dr. Vic Connors (USA) 2006-2007
Mr. Bob Chappell (UK) 2007- 2009
Professor George Woo (Hong Kong) 2009-2011
Mrs. Tone Garaas – Maudalen (Norway) 2011- 2013
Dr. Susan Cooper (Canada) 2013-2015
Dr. Uduak Udom (Nigeria) 2015- 2017
Dr. Scott Mundle (Canada) 2017-2019

Past WCO General Delegate Meetings

Past World Council of Optometry (WCO) General Delegates Meeting locations include:

  • May 1998 in Jerusalem, Israel
  • May 1999 in Brasilia, Brazil
  • June 2000 in Cape Town, South Africa
  • May 2001 in Helsinki, Finland
  • June 2002 in New Orleans, LA – USA
  • March 2003 in Agra, India
  • June 2004 in Orlando, FL – USA
  • April 2005 in Accra, Ghana
  • April 2007 in Mexico City, Mexico
  • June 2009 in Melaka, Malaysia
  • April 2011 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • April 2013 in Malaga, Spain
  • September 2015 in Medellin, Colombia

We hope you’ll join us this September 2017 in Hyderabad, India!

Changes in Optometry Over the Past 90 Years

Did you know…

  • 1927 – World Council of Optometry is formed.
  • 1928 – The routine examination concept was introduced.
  • 1928 – New York initiates end of apprenticeship licensure.
  • 1937 – Pennsylvania introduces bill to define scope of practice in optometry schools.
  • 1938 – Plastic contact lenses are introduced.
  • 1947 – Optometrists are commissioned in U.S. Army and placed on staff of Veterans Administration Hospitals for first time.
  • 1947 – Corneal contact lens of thin plastic is developed and awarded a patent.
  • 1948 – Clinical Refraction is published as a landmark text for teaching optometry.
  • 1952 – The first National Board exam is given in the U.S.
  • 1960 – European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) begins
  • 1968 – National Eye Institute was established in the U.S. leading to innovative research used throughout the world.
  • 1969 – National Optometric Association was founded advancing minority optometrists and eye care in minority communities.
  • 1971 – Bausch & Lomb introduced first hydrogel soft contact lens.
  • 1971 – First Diagnostic Pharmaceutical Agent (DPA) Law passed (Rhode Island). Allows optometrists to use ophthalmic drugs for diagnostic purposes.
  • 1971 – Non-contact tonometer is developed.
  • 1976 – First Therapeutic Pharmaceutical Agent (TPA) Law passed (West Virginia). Allows therapeutic drugs by optometrists.
  • 1978 – The Asia Pacific Council of Optometry (APCO) began when International Federation of Asia and Pacific Association of Optometrists was formed.
  • 1978 – The Latin American Association of Optometry and Optics was founded.
  • 1988 – Pearle Vision Foundation grants funds to organizations seeking cures for Diabetic Retinopathy.
  • 1988 – Give the Gift of Sight in-store programs begin with vouchers for free new eyewear in LensCrafters stores across North America.
  • 1991 – First Give the Gift of Sight Global Clinic to Costa Rica: 8,600 people helped.
  • 1995 – Active optometric involvement in U.S. national research produces results (example: Collaborative Longitudinal Evaluation of Keratoconus Study and Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study).
  • 1995 – Israeli government allows optometrists to serve as the primary point of access for all age ranges; but must have children under age of six and adults 60 years and older also seek medical eye exam from ophthalmologist.
  • 1998 – First state law allows lasers by optometrists for certain treatment purposes (Oklahoma).
  • 1998 – African Council of Optometry (AFCO) is launched.
  • 1999 – World Health Organization (WHO) launched global vision initiative, Vision 2020: The Right to Sight to combat avoidable blindness.
  • 2000 – New Zealand and Australia have a mutual recognition agreement in which optometrists that are registered in one country may practice in the other upon local compliance.
  • 2003 – Community I-Care programs begin in Asia Pacific including its partnership with Croc Festival to provide free vision care & eyewear to children in remote parts of Australia.
  • 2005 – The World Council of Optometry adopted the Global Competency-Based Model of Scope of Practice in Optometry, which provides a rational framework for addressing the challenges of professional harmonization.
  • 2007 – The U.K. passed a statute granting optometrists independent prescribing privileges – moving them from diagnostic to therapeutic practice.
  • 2010 – The U.S. passes national health care legislation designating children’s vision as an essential benefit.
  • 2010 – All Japan Optometric and Optical Association developed certification program. No practitioners in Japan will be able to register without possessing the educational background stipulated by the association.
  • 2010 – The Middle Eastern Council of Optometry officially becomes the Eastern Mediterranean Council of Optometry (EMCO).