During the 1980s, in Salt Lake City, David Apple started to study intraocular lenses (IOLs), including those lenses that had been explanted from the eye following complications. His publications concerning IOL research and his review of the history of IOLs led to the publication of two major textbooks: Evolution of Intraocular Lenses in 1985 and Intraocular Lenses. Evolution, Designs, Complications, and Pathology in 1989.
His scientific papers on IOLs attracted the interest of Harold Ridley, the British inventor of the intraocular lens. Through mutual contacts Ridley asked David Apple to visit him at his home near Salisbury in Wiltshire. They first met in the summer of 1985. The initial acquaintance developed into a personal and professional friendship between the two men. Apple’s research in Salt Lake City had shown without doubt the safety and efficacy of IOLs but it was astonishing for him to learn that no institution or university had yet honoured Harold Ridley. As Chairman of the Ophthalmology Department at the Medical University of South Carolina Apple decided to correct this. He brought to his university administration the idea to honour Harold with a degree. At first, Apple found that he was rebuffed by colleagues who had not heard of Ridley, but he made a final effort with the President of the University, Dr. James Edwards and this was successful. Dr. Edwards and David Apple presented an honorary degree to Sir Harold on 29th April 1989. This was the first award given to Ridley from any university. This together with Ridley’s admission into the UK’s Royal Society lead to a marked improvement in his acceptance by the ophthalmic profession and the general public.
While this friendship did much to legitimise and restore Ridley’s reputation as the inventor of the IOL, it simultaneously established Apple’s own reputation as the world’s foremost researcher in IOL research. His proximity to Ridley also identified him as the undisputed champion of Ridley’s cause and publicist for the inventor with Apple’s own generation of professional colleagues.
In February 2000, Harold Ridley was knighted by HM Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. This award was the culmination of years of lobbying work by David Apple together with surgeon friends and the Chairman, Managing Director and Board of the IOL-manufacturer, Rayner.
In the 1990s Harold Ridley appointed David Apple as his biographer.
The biography, Sir Harold Ridley and his Fight for Sight: He changed the world so that we may better see it was published in 2006, the centenary of Ridley’s birth and a time when David Apple was very ill. He persevered and published it in time for the centenary.
The book was launched at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons in London in September of that year. It covers not only the life of the IOL’s inventor but also reveals much about the biographer’s own life as he reviews the important changes and developments in ophthalmology in the twentieth century.
“I thank heaven we now know the work was worthwhile and that both of us will leave something to the world when we die.”
Harold in a letter to David, 28th October 1996.
Apple, David J (2006). Sir Harold Ridley and his fight for sight. Thorofare, NJ. SLACK Incorporated. ISBN 1-55642-786-7
David J Apple entry in Wikipedia.com
Harold Ridley (ophthalmologist) entry in Wikipedia.com