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(6 January 1942 - 27 July 2015)

Professor Brien Holden was a leading champion for research and the development of new and better vision care technology and products.

Brien Holden's contributions extended across research, education, public health and social enterprise.

He generated over $1.3 billion in research, education and humanitarian funds and was described by Professor Earl Smith at the award of his Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters at the University of Houston as, "the most influential optometrist of our generation."

His efforts were acknowledged through a host of national and international awards and honours, including an Order of Australia Medal for his work in eye health and vision science; the Schwab Social Entrepreneur Award for Africa 2010 at the regional World Economic Forum; the Charles F. Prentice Medal (optometry's highest scientific honour) and seven honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, South Africa, UK and the US.

In 2010, the Institute for Eye Research was renamed the Brien Holden Vision Institute in recognition of his contributions.
The early years
brien 70sFollowing the completion of his optometry training at Melbourne University in 1964, Brien Holden embarked on an impactful journey by boat to the UK with his new wife. Seeing the poverty and hardship at several port stops along the way stimulated a lifelong interest in humanitarian pursuits and social justice.

After completing his PhD in corneal and contact lens research in the United Kingdom at the City University London in 1971, Brien returned to Australia to take up a position as Lecturer at the University of New South Wales Australia (UNSW) in Sydney. This proved to be an incredibly fertile research and educational environment in the early 1970s.
It was here that a group led by Brien Holden began to quickly develop expertise in soft contact lenses. Brien's influence was not only felt in contact lens studies and research, but also in teaching diagnostic drugs. His UK qualifications enabled him to be both the first person to be registered in optometry to use diagnostic drugs and the first teacher of the subject in Australia.

In 1973, Brien and several postgraduate students began research to determine what was needed in contact lenses to maintain eye health. This group managed to attract the interest of other researchers to work with them, expanding beyond the original goal of understanding the effects of contact lenses on the cornea to include all aspects of contact lenses – from lens design, material properties and performance to the effects of a wide range of ocular devices, procedures and contact lens solutions on the eye.


Holden BA & Mertz GW, Critical oxygen levels to avoid corneal edema for daily and extended wear contact lenses, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Oct 1984 Vol 25, 1161‐1167.
Holden BA, Sweeney DF, Vannas A, Nilsson KT & Efron N, Effect of long‐term extended contact lens wear on the human cornea, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Nov 1985 Vol 26, 1489‐1501.
Holden BA, Fricke TR, May Ho S, Wong R, Schlenther G, Cronjé S, Burnett A, Papas E, Naidoo KS, Frick KD, Global vision impairment due to uncorrected presbyopia, Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol 126 (No. 12), Dec 2008.
TST Smith, a KD Frick,a BA Holden,b TR Fricke b & KS Naidoo, Potential lost productivity resulting from the global burden of uncorrected refractive error, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2009;87:431–437.
Stapleton F, Keay L, Edwards K, Naduvilath T, Dart JKG, Brian G & Holden BA,‘ The incidence of contact lensrelated microbial keratitis in Australia’, Ophthalmology, 2008; 115:1655-1662.
Naidoo KS, Raghunandan A, Mashige KP, Govender P, Holden BA, Pakharel GP & Ellwein LB, ‘Refractive error and visual impairment in African children in South Africa’, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 2003;44:3764-3770.
Holden BA, Mertz GW & McNally JJ. ‘Corneal swelling response to contact lenses worn under extended wear conditions’, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, February 1983.
Zantos SG, Holden BA. Transient endothelial changes soon after wearing soft contact lenses. Am J Optom Physiol Opt 1977;54:856-8.