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OSA | Living History

Gertrude Rand

OSA Awards & Distinctions

Gertrude Rand received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1908 and her MA and PhD from Bryn Mawr College in 1911. She studied psychology, specifically the sensitivity of retina to color. She remained at Bryn Mawr for more than 10 years and was a respected professor and researcher. She co-published many articles on the effects of lighting on color vision with her husband Clarence E. Ferree. Rand’s research involved mapping the retina for its perceptual abilities including light sensitivity and colour discrimination. The map of the retina became known as the Ferree-Rand perimeter, and it enabled the diagnosis of visual dysfunctions.

In 1928, she moved to Baltimore, Maryland to work for the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where she and Ferree developed a vision research laboratory. She was first appointed as an associate process of research ophthalmology and later became an associate professor of physiological optics. Many of her projects at Johns Hopkins involved industrial lighting. Some of her most notable work was on designing glare-free illumination for the Holland Tunnel which runs under the Hudson River to connect New York and New Jersey. She also contributed to World War II efforts by developing vision standards and testing for pilots and ship lookouts, including night vision technology.

In 1943, Rand moved to New York City to become a research associate at Columbia University’s Knapp Foundation of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. She remained there until her retirement in 1957. She and her collaborators researched the detection and assessment of color blindness and developed the HRR pseudo-isochromatic color test, which was published in JOSA in 1954, and is still used in ophthalmology today. This work enabled the qualitative identification of color blindness along with the type and degree of color blindness in different subjects.

Rand became the first female fellow of the Illuminating Society of North America in 1952 and was awarded the society’s gold medal for her work in 1963. In 1959, she was the first woman to receive OSA’s Edgar D. Tillyer Medal.

Rand died on 30 June 1970 at the age of 84.

Document Created: 22 Mar 2019
Last Updated: 2 Jul 2019