The University Record, May 21, 1996

OBITUARY — Mathew Alpern

Mathew Alpern, professor emeritus of physiological optics in opthalmology in the Medical School and professor emeritus of psychology, died May 16 at U-M Hospitals. One of the world’s foremost experts on color vision, Alpern was 77 years old.

A gifted scientist, educator and member of the National Academy of Sciences, Alpern made major contributions to scientific understanding of the mechanisms of human vision during 50 years of research in the field.

“Dr. Alpern was a devoted scientist who continued to work well past his official retirement in spite of health problems,” says Alan Sugar, professor of ophthalmology. “He was a penetrating questioner who in recent years sometimes appeared to sleep through presentations at scientific conferences, but whose questions made it obvious that he had heard every important point and knew more about the topic than the presenter.”

Alpern began his academic career in 1951 as an assistant professor of optometry at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. In 1955, he joined the U-M faculty as an instructor in opthalmology and research associate in the Vision Research Laboratory. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1956 and associate professor in 1958, and received additional appointments as associate professor of psychology in 1959 and associate professor of physiology in 1960. In 1963, he was named professor of physiological optics in the departments of Opthalmology and Physiology, and profes sor of psychology.

During his long and distinguished career, Alpern received many scientific awards, including election in 1991 to the National Academy of Sciences. He also was the recipient of the Jonas Stein Friedenwald Award from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the Edgar D. Tillyer Medal of the Optical Society of America, the Research to Prevent Blindness Senior Scientific Investigator Award, the Charles F. Prentice Medal, and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the State University of New York’s College of Optometry.

Alpern was born in Akron, Ohio in 1920. He received his O.D. degree in 1941 from Northern Illinois College of Optometry. After spending a brief period in private practice, he served in the U.S. Army from 1942–46. He received his B.M.E. degree from the University of Florida in 1944, and his M.S. (1948) and Ph.D. (1950) degrees in physiological optics from Ohio State University.

He was a member of many professional organizations, including the American Physiological Society, American Psychological Association, Association for Research in Ophthalmology, Optical Society of America and Sigma Xi.

Cremation has already taken place. A memorial service was held May 20.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Mathew Alpern Memorial Research Fund in care of the Department of Ophthalmology, W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, 1000 Wall St., Ann Arbor 48109-0714. Contributions also may be made to Congregation Beth Israel, 2000 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor 48104 or to a charitable organization of one’s choice.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.