Biography of Mathew Alpern

Dr. Mathew Alpern, a scientist and educator (1920-1996) was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He briefly attended the University of Akron (1937-38; 1942) and earned his first Doctorate degree in optometry from the Northern Illinois College of Optometry in 1941. After wartime service in the Army, he also earned a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1946 from the University of Florida and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics (in Physiological optics) from Ohio State University in 1950.

After starting his career at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon (1951-1955), Alpern established his lifelong career at the University of Michigan. Alpern's research covered many aspects of sight, the mechanisms of human vision and the nature of color-vision defects, as well as psychophysics. His contributions to visual psychophysics included the understanding of both retinal photoreceptor structure and other optical, neural, and psychological factors governing visual sensitivity, metacontrast and visual persistence. His studies of optics affected areas such as contact lens development, prisms, scattered light and astigmatism, an irregularity in the curvature of the lens. Alpern was an authority on the physiology of the pupillary light reflex and, with other ophthalmologists, invented a technique known as focal electroretinography. This new technique allowed the precise measurement of the electric response of the retinal cones for the diagnosis of various eye diseases.