As early as 1550 BC, humans were interested in the functioning of the extra-ocular muscles (the muscles responsible for eye movements) and experimented with treatments for strabismus (misaligned eyes). A text from this era suggested the use of tortoise brain mixed with honey, crocodile dung, and lizard blood for treatment of 'turning of the eyes'.
In 200 AD, Galen recognized that the cones of the retina have an association to how the two eyes work together.
In 550 AD, Aeginaeta devised the first recorded treatment of strabismus which involved the use of a mask with small perforations for the eye that were meant to straighten the visual axis.
The first accurate description of the extra-ocular muscles was recorded in 1560, and amblyopia treatment became widespread in 1743.
Our fascination with the visual system has progressed with the efforts of many researchers responsible for the investigation of the anatomy, physiology, neurology and psychology of the visual process. In 1865, Louis Javal introduced the use of exercises, surgery and the stereoscope in the treatment of strabismus. Louis Javal is now considered to be the 'Father of Orthoptics'.
In 1919 in England, Mary Maddox, under the auspices of her father Dr. E.E. Maddox, an ophthalmologist, became the first recorded person to amass and apply the knowledge of ocular motility in the practice of orthoptics as an allied health profession. Her work in orthoptic investigation and the treatment of strabismus has been credited with providing the inspiration for others to take up the profession.
The study of orthoptics spread from Great Britain to North America in the early 1930's. The first Canadian orthoptic clinic was opened in 1937 in Winnipeg, and in 1938 the American Orthoptic Council was formed to represent the interests of American orthoptists. In 1940 Vancouver opened the first Canadian training school, and in 1967 The Canadian Orthoptic Society and the Canadian Orthoptic Council were founded.
Today, the practice of orthoptics echoes its early formation, and expands upon those humble beginnings to offer an exciting and dynamic career in the eye care field.