Irvin Borish was born on January 21, 1913 in Philadelphia, Penn. to Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. The family moved to Liberty after his father contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to the renowned Loomis Sanatorium. After graduating from Liberty High School in 1930, Borish enrolled in the arts and sciences program at Temple University, but soon recognized that the Great Depression limited career opportunities for liberal arts students. At the suggestion of an uncle who was an optometrist, Borish enrolled in Chicago’s Northern Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago.
Dr. Borish began classes knowing little about the field of optometry other than its job prospects were promising. He soon realized, however, that he had found his passion. He excelled as a student maintaining a perfect 4.0 average—the best academic record in the institution’s history.
He had always expected to enter private practice after graduation. Instead, he accepted a faculty position at the Northern Illinois College of Optometry to remain near his future wife Beatrice who was completing her degree in immunology at the University of Chicago. By 1942, he was named Assistant Dean.
In 1944, Dr. Borish started a successful private optometric practice in Kokomo, Ind. Following a heart attack in 1973, he retired from private practice and returned to teaching and research at Indiana University's Optometry School. He left Indiana to assume the Benedict Professorship of Optometric Practice at the University of Houston. The university later established the Irvin M. Borish Chair in Optometric Practice, an endowed chair with more than one million dollars of support. In 1995, Indiana University honored him by establishing the Borish Center for Ophthalmic Research.
Over his career, Dr. Borish authored the first of numerous editions of “Clinical Refraction”, a standard textbook for optometry students. He lobbied for the establishment of an optometry school in Bloomington, Indiana, wrote nearly one hundred articles, delivered numerous lectures, served as a visiting professor to at least nine optometry schools, and patented hard toric (for the treatment of astigmatism) and bifocal contact lenses. He was active in the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, coauthored the original manual used to accredit optometrists, and helped set standards for the safe manufacture of contact lenses.
Dr. Borish passed away on March 3, 2012 at the age of 99 in Boca Raton, Florida.