History

The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute is a non-profit, independent research institute, affiliated with and located adjacent to the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. A medical center campus is ideal for fostering collaboration between laboratory and clinical scientists with first-hand exposure to real biomedical problems and opportunities.

Since its beginnings in 1959, this organization has grown from being a small part of the medical research group at Stanford University’s old San Francisco medical facility into a fully independent research institute, world-renowned for the quality of its research on vision, eye diseases, and sensory rehabilitation engineering.

When the Stanford Medical School moved to Palo Alto, those members who elected to remain in the City decided to form their own research groups. Dr. Arthur Jampolsky helped form the Eye Research Institute simply by the declaration of its existence. He quickly established one of the first ocular electromyographic laboratories in this country. Soon the Institute was joined by other ophthalmologists and visual scientists interested in research, including the first co-executive director, Dr. Alan B. Scott.

It was soon apparent that the Eye Research Institute would need more space and Dr. Jampolsky worked hard to get funding. Among his patients, he had several who were able to donate large sums of money and over the years, he was able to raise tens of millions of dollars for the Institute. In 1963, the Eye Research Institute became known as San Francisco Eye Research Foundation (later The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute). Three grateful patients composed the charter group, plus the following major contributors to the Foundation: Clement J. (Jack) Smith, William A. (Bill) and Catherine D. (Kitty) Kettlewell. The securing of more research space and buildings was accomplished largely through their efforts. 

Smith-Kettlewell has always been fortunate in its friends. This small group of ardent supporters, each personally familiar with significant eye impairment, provided the first financial resources and guiding hands for the Institute’s growth. After the deaths of Jack Smith and Bill Kettlewell, Kitty Kettlewell continued with redoubled efforts and dedication, fulfilling her husband’s mission, and contributed funds to the establishment of the Chair of Research in Visual Sciences, in his memory.

Buildings and financial resources are essential to the survival of any organization, but they alone do not make a research institute. The greater part of this organization's capital is intellectual capital - the independent investigators who make up its scientific staff. They serve on editorial boards and national advisory panels, and are regularly invited to give talks at national and international meetings.

Smith-Kettlewell has been blessed with an efficient, cooperative and extraordinarily supportive staff. The hard work and intelligence of administrators, secretaries, engineers, programmers, and technicians contribute much to the well being of the Institute. It also supports and conducts annual guest lectureships, with prominent invited guest lecturers. Every other year, Smith-Kettlewell conducts or collaborates in an international scientific symposium, invariably on clinical/laboratory issues, giving visibility to our signature on collaborative research.