Jerome Wolken


Jerome Wolken

Jerome Jay Wolken (March 28, 1917 – May 10, 1999) was an American biophysicist who used his research in vision in deep sea creatures to develop a kind of eyeglasses that used specially designed lenses to gather more light, which provided vision to some people who were legally blind.

Jerome Jay Wolken was born in Pittsburgh on March 28, 1917.[1] He earned a series of degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1946, a master's degree in biological sciences in 1948 and a Ph.D. in biophysics in 1949. He taught at his alma mater after his graduation and was named a professor of biophysics physiology in 1962.[2] As head of the Biophysical research laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh, Wolken received a project from NASA to develop a rocket-borne detector that could be used to search for signs of extraterrestrial life using microspectrophotometry with a series of focusing lenses that Wolken had developed. As part of his research, he proposed sending cockroaches into space, to take advantage of their eye nerves and their ability to see in the dark light waves that are invisible to human eyes.[3]

Contents

Faculty

In 1964, he was named to the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, where he was head of the biology department at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College. In studies he conducted at Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and other facilities around the world, Wolken did extensive research on deep sea animals, investigating the way that their lenses were constructed to allow them to see in the near-complete darkness in waters up to 1,500 feet (460 m) deep.[2]

Lens

He developed the Light Concentrating Lens System in the 1980s, modeled on the lenses of the deep sea creatures he studied,. earning U.S. patent 4,669,832 on June 2, 1987, for his development.[4] The system used a set of pear-shaped lenses whose geometric relationship between the curves at the top and bottom of each lens allowed them to gather 10 times more light than standard lenses. In addition to their use in astronomy and medicine and photography, the lenses could be worn by individuals with cataracts to provide them with improved vision.[2]

He wrote more than 100 articles for scientific journals and wrote or edited 11 books in his field. He continued his research at Carnegie Mellon after his official retirement from the university in 1982.[2]

Family

A resident of Pittsburgh, Wolken died at his home there at age 82 on May 10, 1999. He was survived by his second wife, their daughter Johanna Zorn and a son. He was also survived by a daughter and a son Jonathan Wolken, founder of Pilobolus dance company, who were from his first marriage, to Dorothy Mallinger Wolken, who died in 1954.[2]

References

  1. ^ Jerome Jay Wolken, Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed July 6, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Saxon, Wolfganag. "Jerome Wolken, 82, Scientist Who Gave Sight to Some Blind", The New York Times, May 20, 1999. Accessed July 6, 2010.
  3. ^ Cannel, Ward. "Star Gazers Call It Microspectrophotometry", The Owosso Argus-Press, May 16, 1962. Accessed July 6, 2010.
  4. ^ Patent Number 4,669,832: Light concentrating lens system Jerome J. Wolken, United States Patent and Trademark Office. Accessed July 6, 2010.

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