Dr. Sydney Bush
1928 - 2019
Sydney Bush, who has died in his 90th year had originally chosen to spend his life in medical practice and reached his second M.B before switching and becoming the 4th generation of his family to pursue a career in optics. His life spanned the profession’s development, from chemist and jeweller opticians before the NHS existed, into ophthalmic optics and ‘Optometry’.
He was an innovator, embracing variable focus lenses as soon as Essilor started started production, and then developing his own reduced aberration designs. Anisometropia and convergence insufficiency were particular areas of interest, leading to his development of the Bush bicentric lens, line free slab off prism designs, and special base-in prism controlled bifocals.
Outside of Optics, in the 1960s, his passion to show others what they ought to know led him to In the demonstrate the harm of ‘secondary smoking’ by placing his pocket-handkerchief over a vacuum cleaner nozzle in bar of his local Conservative club. The tar laden fug rapidly changed the cotton from white to deep yellow, but no one was then interested in what was happening to their lungs. As a keen motorist, he tired of finding his Bentley boxed in by people parking too close, and designed impact absorbing bumpers in order gently to nudge other cars without causing damage.
In the early 1980s Sydney Bush developed a huge ‘high tech’ frequent replacement soft contact lens practice, introducing monthly payment plans. From there he pursued a keen interest in what is now recognized as nutritional ophthalmology.
His research, conducted amongst patients, was showing that Lycine and Vitamin C could reverse arteriosclerosis in the retinal vasculature. It was also controversially indicating that the medical establishment’s enthusiasm for mass medicating the nation with statins was benefiting the pharmaceutical establishment more than the public.
This new and trailblazing avenue of optometry practice brought Sydney Bush, by then in his 80s, to the attention of the General Optical Council. It concluded he had brought the profession into disrepute and erased his name from the register. There was a cruel irony that whilst the GOC stated its actions were for the protection of the public, Bush was proving that nutrition, as opposed to medication, could be used to treat retinal and systemic pathology.
The development and advancement of any profession is dependent upon the mavericks, the unorthodox and independently minded few who are prepared to question establishment thinking. Sydney Bush recognized optometry’s potential to exploit the retina as a fundamental indicator of healthcare far beyond the traditional and accepted boundaries of practice.