George Giles

The great polymath.

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Photograph of George Giles in the 1960s
George Giles in his
characteristic bow tie
and 1960s spectacles

As the BOA's fourth secretary (1941-1965) George Giles OBE, FBOA, HD, FSMC, D.ORTH (1904-1965) was renowned as a hard-working, hard-playing individual, to the extent that it is often suggested that his industry killed him. It is therefore small surprise that, at a time when the administrative burden of running the professional body for ophthalmic opticians was growing ever more complex, he took a hands-on approach to the museum, often answering research enquiries personally. In a sense, the Museum had been orphaned the year before, following the death of J. H. Sutcliffe after the briefest period of retirement and Giles may have felt a responsibility for continuing the collection that went beyond his contracted duties.

The George Giles Memorial Plaque

His bronze memorial plaque in the museum reads:

Barrister & Ophthalmic Optician / who during his whole career was a / devoted architect of our profession / until he died on September 26th 1965 / at the age of 61 years

As Giles wrote in the preface to his Practice of Orthoptics he was prone to 'living on the job'. At various times he was Senior Examiner of the BOA, Senior Staff refractionist, Senior Orthoptist and Lecturer at the London Refraction Hospital, consultant to a cadet ship - the Incorporated Thames Nautical Training College (HMS "Worcester"), Registrar of the Joint Council of Qualified Opticians, Technical Adviser to the London Optical Company, Honorary Secretary of the West and North West London and Middlesex Local Association, member of the GOC, President of the International Optical League, a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, a Fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society, Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society and an Ernest Aves Medallist. He also qualified as a barrister of Lincoln's Inn. Giles edited the Dioptric Review and the British Journal of Physiological Optics. He co-designed the Giles-Archer Colour Vision Unit and various orthoptic instruments, many of which are represented in the BOA Museum collection.

Characteristically, his book on the Practice of Orthoptics begins with an historical survey including a discussion and illustration from Bartisch's Ophthalmodouleia, as found in the rare books collection of the BOA Library, and an account of the work of F. C. Donders and Claude Worth. Like Sutcliffe, he benefited greatly from the knowledge and assistance of the BOA Librarian Margaret Mitchell.