Vale: Professor Brien Holden 6 January 1942 - 27 July 2015

Professor Brien Holden
Wednesday, 29 July, 2015

UNSW Science is deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Professor Brien Holden OAM of the School of Optometry who was a global leader in eye care and vision research, an internationally renowned and awarded scientist, and a humanitarian.

Professor Holden, who was CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and CEO of the Vision Cooperative Research Centre, passed away in Sydney on Monday night.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said: “On behalf of UNSW, I extend my condolences to Brien’s family, friends and colleagues here in Australia and around the world. Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with them during this very difficult time.

"Professor Holden was a global leader in research and innovation in his field, described by one US university as “the most influential optometrist of our generation”.

"An international ‘giant’  of vision science, Brien led the development of new contact lenses and surgical vision technologies, investigated the causes and solutions to blindness and impaired vision from refractive error, and helped to combat the global epidemic of myopia.

"His pioneering breakthroughs had real world impact and transformed lives. Some 60 million people now wear safer, more breathable ‘soft’ silicone hydrogel contact lenses manufactured using a scientific formula designed by Brien and his colleagues at UNSW more than three decades ago.

"His many national and international honours – most recently receiving the American Academy of Optometry’s highest award – attest to his lifetime commitment to the advancement of knowledge.

"An outspoken advocate for government investment in science, innovation and humanitarian aid to improve health outcomes in the developing world, Brien’s contributions to society extended well beyond research to education, public health and social enterprise.

"I have no doubt his fine legacy will continue. Only in May this year, the world’s first extended Depth of Focus contact lens was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Developed by the Brien Holden Vision Institute at UNSW, it is technology that could help the one billion people globally who live with presbyopia," professor Jacobs said.

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Merlin Crossley said: “Professor Brien Holden was a towering figure who showed initiative, inventiveness and leadership. He translated research in a way that improved the lives of millions of people.

Deputy CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Professor Kovin Naidoo, said: “Brien was a man of extraordinary vision who devoted himself to the service of mankind. He demanded that the research be indivisible from the service to society. He was truly an intellectual giant in eye health and vision, a powerhouse driving change by mobilising teams globally united in science and service to the disadvantaged of our world.”

Professor Brian Layland, Chair of the Brien Holden Vision Institute board and life-long friend of Professor Holden said: “Brien's efforts and achievements have been recognised, applauded and adopted worldwide. All who have worked with him will have fond memories to cherish; all will miss him. His legacy will encourage all to strive to achieve the goals he had set.”