Snyder Lecture Series

Charles J. Snyder, the long time librarian at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, for whom the Snyder Lecture Series is named. (Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.)

Charles J. Snyder, the long time librarian at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, for whom the Snyder Lecture Series is named. (Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary.)


In 1991, David G. Cogan inaugurated the Snyder Lecture to honor Charles J. Snyder, who for many years was the librarian at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Snyder's interest in ophthalmic history had led to the publication of a series of essays as the "Our Ophthalmic Heritage" section of the Archives of Ophthalmology while Cogan was its editor. Many of Snyder's essays were collected in book form in 1967 (Snyder C.J. Our Ophthalmic Heritage. Boston, Mass: Little Brown & Co.)




The 2017 Snyder Lecturer:  Ivan Schwab, M.D., F.A.C.S

Ivan R. Schwab, M.D. F.A.C.S. is a Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the corneal service at the University of California, Davis.

He graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University (WVU) in 1969 with a bachelor's degree from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and received a medical degree from WVU in 1973.  Completing his residency at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and following three fellowships including a two year stint at the Francis I. Proctor Foundation, Dr. Schwab returned to WVU as a faculty member in the School of Medicine for seven years beginning in 1982. During his tenure there, he served as Chief of Staff for the WVU Medical Center Hospital.  In 1989, he moved to the University of California, Davis, and has been on its faculty since then. He has been active with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 among other awards.  He is active in several professional societies having served in leadership positions in the Ocular Microbiology and Immunology Group, and the Cornea Society He is an emeritus Board Director on the American Board of Ophthalmology.

He has won the IgNobel in 2006 for Ornithology, numerous teaching awards within his department as well as being cited as a Distinguished Alumnus of West Virginia University.  Dr. Schwab has more than 240 articles in peer reviewed journals as well as numerous chapters and four books including his most recent book, Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved on the evolution of the eye. He has been on the editorial board of EyeNet, the British Journal of Ophthalmology and is currently on the editorial board of the journal CORNEA, the journal Ophthalmology as well as the PanAmerican journal.  He has an active practice, and is engaged in research on ocular surface disease, and in comparative optics and physiology.


Does My Dog See in Color?  The Evolution of Color Vision


The millions of hues in our visual world bring us great joy and subtle detail, but it hasn’t always been this way. What brings us to this riot of color? Why do we have color vision at all? 

More than three billion years ago, prokaryotes added rhodopsin as a proton pump to be used as an energy source. Eventually, both prokaryotes and eukaryotes would add a rhodopsin to emphasize certain wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. Color vision would have to wait, though, as it would require at least two different rhodosins for the perception of color. 

Color vision would not appear until approximately one billion years ago in the early Metazoa, and then, likely only to manage the bright glare, reflections and shimmerings of the early, shallow, aquatic environment that would have been minimally protected by a thin atmosphere or robust aquatic vegetation. The opsins that react to shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum would be dazzled by the glare and the longer wavelengths would be selected to deal with the luminance and perhaps brightness. Once different opsins proved an advantage in contrast and discrimination for the early Metazoa, the race for color vision would be on, though not all lineages would find advantage in participation.

Arthropods and vertebrates, as the two principal phyla with confirmed color vision, would find advantages in color vision, and this would likely contribute to their phylogenetic success. And, yet, there may be a few outliers among the mollusks, and perhaps the annelids suggesting that some lineages are still toying with the leap to color vision.

Arthropods and vertebrates would use duplication and spontaneous mutation to discover the range of color vision in what is now called the visible electromagnetic spectrum.  The choices of these opsins were, in some ways, random but limited and formed by environment and especially physics.

The twists and turns of the evolution of these nuggets of genetic choices is a long and winding story replete with losses and gains, near extinction with resuscitation, and some wondrous examples of the random cleverness of evolution over unfathomable lengths of time. As ophthalmologists, we think in terms of primate color vision which, while interesting in and of itself, is only a small and rather pedestrian side story to the overall course of color vision. The rest of the story is steeped in color vision co-option, neurological channels, multiples of visual pigments, perfection on the wing, and evolutionary oddities that do not seem to fit anywhere but that specific creature.

Color vision depends on different visual pigments, and there is likely an optimal number since each different neurologic input requires a separate channel for interpretation and integration. More than four opsins likely are not helpful, and the neurology and embryology to maintain them are expensive. Although more opsins may provide other information or may be summed, the rare species that have more than four opsins may be using them for other tasks or somehow separating the input much like our own eye uses melanopsin and cryptochromes for circadian rhythm.

The story of the evolution of color vision is so complicated, intertwined, and convoluted that it seems to parallel metazoan evolution itself—and perhaps it is a proxy for the understanding of the machinations of evolution.

Previous Snyder Lectures:



Mark J. Mannis, M.D. 

Shakespeare's Eye

Mark J. Manis, M.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, UC Davis Eye Center at the University of California, Davis.  He completed his ophthalmology residency training at Washington University in St. Louis and a fellowship in cornea and external disease at the University of Iowa.  His primary research includes studies in the development of novel protein-based anti-infective agents, corneal transplantation, visual rehabilitation of patients with corneal disease, management of diseases of the ocular surface, and oculodermal disease.  Clinically, he specializes in corneal surgery and diseases of the external eye.  Dr. Mannis is editor/author of six recent books on the cornea and ocular surface diseases; he has more than 150 published papers, and was the founding editor of ision Pan-America: the Pan-American Journal of Ophthalmology.  Dr. Mannis is a recipient of the R. Townley Paton Award from the Eye Bank Association of America; the Lew Wasserman Award in research from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.; the Moacyr Alvaro Gold Medal from the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil; and an honorary doctoral degree from the National University of San Marcos in Peru.  He was named the 2014 Castroviejo Medalist by the Cornea Society.  Dr. Mannis has spent the last several years in efforts to contribute to vision care in Latin America, for which he was the recent recipient of the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award by the Academic Senate of the University of California, Davis.  

He has trained fellows since 1990 with over 25 U.S. fellows in cornea and external disease as well as 15 international fellows and almost 100 residents. He conducts a busy referral practice in diseases of the cornea and external eye based at the University of California, Davis.



Jay M. Galst, M.D.

Focusing on the Details:  Ophthalmologists and Numismatists

(Some of Us Who Are or Were Both)


Jay M. Galst, M.D. delivered the 25th Charles A. Snyder lecture to the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society at its meeting in New York City on March 28, 2015. Cogan Society member Jay Galst is Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, Senior Attending Surgeon at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, a past President and Member of the Ocular Heritage Society.  He has served as President of the New York Numismatic Club and in 2014 was named a Numismatic Ambassador at the annual ANA convention. 





George M. Bohigian, M.D.

Our Ophthalmic Heritage: Superstitions, Symbols and Magic

George M. Bohemian, M.D. delivered the 24th. Charles A. Snyder Lecture to the Cogan Ophthalmic History Society at its meeting in Monterey, California on March 29, 2013.





Danny Hirsch-Kaufmann Jokl, M.D.

Endre A.  Balazs, M.D. and David Miller, M.D. and the Serendipitous Origin of Viscosurgery



Gerald Allen Fishman, M.D.

An Historical Perspective for the Early Treatment of Night Blindness and the Use of Dubious and Unproven Treatment Strategies for Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa



Norman B. Medow, M.D.

Physicians – Poisons – Pupils and a Bella Donna. The Evolution of Forensics



Ira Eliasoph, M.D.

Ophthalmology and Observation: A Life "Apologia pro Vita Ophthalmologica"



William Tasman, M.D.




Richard Keeler

Instrument Ancestry: Genesis of the Ophthalmic Examination



Donald Blanchard, M.D.

Ophthalmology of Hieronymus Brunschwig



Gordon K. Klintworth, M. D. (deceased)

Historical Aspects of Yellow the Color Associated with Cowardice



 Arthur M. Silverstein, Ph.D.

When the Cure is Worse than the Disease: A Brief History of Ocular Immunopathology



Michael F. Marmor, M. D. 

Monet through his Own Eyes



William Spencer, M. D. 

The Origin and Development of the San Francisco Academic Ophthalmology



J. William Rosenthal, M. D. 

Early American Spectacle Makers



Sean Murphy, M. D. 

A Passion for Books: William Osler, Casey Wood and McGill University



Steven A. Newman, M. D. 

Quantitation in Ophthalmology: A Science in Evolution



John Gittinger, M. D. 

Radiation and Cataracts: Cause or Cure



Melvin Alper, M. D. (deceased)

Three Pioneers in the Early History of Neuro-Radiology



James Ravin, M. D. 

Albert Einstein and his Mentor, Max Talmey



Ronald Fishman, M. D.

Gordon Holmes, the Cortical Retina and the Wounds of War



H. Stanley Thompson, M. D.

The Growth of American Neuro-Ophthalmology



Frank Newell, M. D. (deceased)

Origins of the National Eye Institute



Andrew Ferry, M. D. 

Dr. Isaac Thompson and His Celebrated Eye Water



Daniel Albert, M. D. 

The Discovery of the Ophthalmoscope



Frederick Blodi, M. D.  (deceased)

Some Famous Persons with Visual Problems


Page last updated March 21, 2017