His mission? To advance the eye care industry – forever.
With millions of glaucoma patients worldwide who have benefited from his invention, engineer Dr. Bernard "Bernie" Grolman certainly succeeded.
The story of the non-contact tonometer began in 1959 when he flipped on the radio during his morning commute to American Optical (now Reichert Technologies).
After hearing a public service announcement on the prevalence of glaucoma, he thought to himself: "What if I could create an instrument that all eye doctors could use to help diagnose the leading cause of blindness, without anesthetics and touching the cornea?"
"The need for a non-contact tonometer was so obvious," said Grolman, who would spend the next 10 years designing and testing the original NCT I.
Using an air pulse with electro-optical detection to provide Goldmann-like measurements, the non-contact tonometer allowed all eye doctors to measure IOP, crucial to the detection of glaucoma.
"We Couldn't Make Them Fast Enough to Fill Orders"
Unveiled at the American Academy of Optometry meeting in 1971, the NCT I wasn't just the buzz of the show, but an entire industry.
"You couldn’t get near our booth," said Grolman. "They were 10, 12, 20 deep waiting to be measured."
The frenzy lasted long after its release, too.
"We didn't even need to advertise for the first two or three years because we simply couldn't make them fast enough to fill orders."
Paving the Way for Decades of Innovation
What started at our facility more than 40 years ago has spawned countless innovations in non-contact tonometry. From old favorites like the Xpert NCT, to modern advances like the Reichert 7CR Auto Tonometer + Corneal Response Technology or the Ocular Response Analyzer G3 Auto Tonometer + Corneal Hysteresis. But one thing’s for certain. We're sure thankful for Dr. Grolman and his decision to listen to the radio that morning back in 1959.