Robert M. Boynton Lecture

The Boynton Lecture is named in honor of Robert M. Boynton (1924-2006). Known to his friends as “Bob,” he began his undergraduate career at Amherst College and was an early PhD student of Lorrin Riggs at Brown University. He took his first position at the University of Rochester in 1952, where he founded the Center for Visual Sciences in 1963. In 1974, Bob moved to the University of California at San Diego, where he remained until his retirement in 1991. Bob's work was primarily in the area of color vision, and his book Human Color Vision is considered an important and seminal text for students of vision science. though retirement from the field did not interrupt his publication record -- he simply switched to researching one of his other passions, baseball. 

 Bob was a member of the Optical Society of America (now Optica), the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and the National Academy of Sciences. He was recognized by the OSA with the Tillyer medal (1972), and the society's highest honor, the Frederick Ives Medal (1995), for his fundamental contributions to the understanding of color vision and his leadership in teaching an in service to the vision community. Bob's spirit of scientific collaboration and volunteerism was always present in his research, teaching, and mentoring and he set an admirable example for his students and peers.

The Robert M. Boynton lecture was established at the very first Fall Vision Meeting in 2001. Our first lecturer, Rhea Eskew, was chosen by Bob. Subsequent lecturers have been nominated by the vision science community at large for their contributions to vision science in the cooperative spirit Bob embodied. Once a biennial event, the Boynton Lecture become an annual affair beginning in 2022. Bob remained active in the Fall Vision Community until he passed away peacefully at the age of 81 in 2006.

History of the Boynton Lecture series

(2001) Rhea Eskew, Northeastern University  //  Odds and ends: Asymmetric and unipolar chromatic mechanisms

Rhea Eskew was selected by Bob Boynton as the inaugeral speaker for the Boynton Lecture for his contributions to OSA and the field of vision science. An experimentalist, Rhea collects detection and discrimination data and uses it to test quantitative models of early and mid-level vision. Rhea is known as critical thinker able to balance a sharp wit with humor and kindness. Rhea did his graduate work at the Georgia Institute of Technology, applying nonlinear systems analysis techniques to human spatial vision. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Human Information Processing, UCSD, he worked with Bob to understand color discrimination. He next spent four years as a Research Associate at Harvard University working on chromatic detection. In 1990 he moved to Northeastern University Department of Psychology. 

(2003) Russell L. De Valois, UC Berkeley  //  

Russell L. De Valois was a prominent figure in the field of visual perception and neuroscience. His work focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying color vision and visual perception, particularly in primates. De Valois made significant contributions to our understanding of biologically plausible visual encoding mechanisms. His research laid the groundwork for advancements in fields such as neurophysiology, psychophysics, and computational neuroscience. He had an outsized impact on numerous students and researchers, shaping the direction of visual perception research for decades to come. De Valois's work continues to be highly influential in both academic and applied settings, contributing to fields such as vision science, psychology, and neurobiology. 

Tragically, Russ died two weeks before the 2003 Fall Vision Meeting. Instead of a Boynton lecture, FVM dedicated our sections on psychophysics and physiology to Russ.

(2005) Joel Pokorny and Vivianne Smith, University of Chicago  //  Sensitivity regulation in the visual system

Joel Pokorny and Vivianne Smith have maintained a professional (and private) association since their graduate studies at Columbia University, where they received their Ph.D. degrees in 1967. Since then, they have been at the University of Chicago, for many years as part of a distinguished group of researchers at the Visual Sciences Center. Their students – too numerous to mention – are now well represented throughout the vision research community, and continue to promulgate their careful, analytical approach. Joel and Vivianne are distinguished by wide-ranging interests across many fields of visual science. Their cone fundamentals have been for many years the de facto standards for visual scientists. Other aspects of their work include the psychophysics of temporal and spatial processing of chromatic and luminance information, and clinical and practical aspects of color vision and the way it is tested. Their unique multidisciplinary approach has resulted in major advances in our knowledge of the retinal substrates of behavior, most recently the description of the melanopsin-containing ganglion cells in the primate responsible for diurnal rhythms. Joel and Vivianne have said their goal has been to move up one retinal cell class per decade. The topic of their Boynton lecture reflects their interest in ascertaining the retinal basis of psychophysical performance. 

(2007) Gerald Jacobs, UC Santa Barbara  //  The role of comparative studies in understanding primate color vision

 Jerry's work explores mammalian color vision utilizing a diverse array of techniques including neuronal responses, photoreceptor morphology, light absorption, and genetic factors to understand the evolution and functionality of color vision across mammilian species. A renowned teacher and mentor, Jerry's work is marked by meticulous experimentation, precise measurement, and clear writing, earning him international recognition as a leading expert in comparative color vision. 

(2009) David R. Williams, University of Rochester  //  Imaging retinal mosiacs in the living eye

David received his BS from Denison University in 1975, and his PhD from the University of California, San Diego in 1979. He completed postdoctoral work at Bell Labs in 1980. He has served as director for the Center for Visual Science at the University of Rochester since 1991. He also serves as associate director for the Center for Adaptive Optics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1998 he was recognized with the Edgar D. Tillyer Award for his investigations into the psychophysics and optics of vision that have been uniquely innovative, imaginatively conceived, and impeccable executed, and has greatly advanced our understanding of the factors limiting visual resolution.

(2011) Dennis Dacey, University of Washington  //  Neural origins of color and spatial coding in the primate retina

Dacey is a neurobiologist who has focused his work on the organization of the primate retina. Hie pioneered the development of a physiologically viable in vitro retinal preparation opening the door to a greater understanding of the full complexity of the neural retina and how a plurality of cell types and circuits cobtributes to the creation of parallel visual pathways. with long-time collaborators Vivianne Smith, Joel Pokorny and Barry Lee, Dacey applied intracellular recording a staining methods to explore the neural origins of cone-opponency in primate retinal ganglion cells, a question of fundamental interest to Bob Boynton in an earlier era. Dacey received his PhD in 1983 from the University of Chicago working on the evolution and neural organization of the reptilian brain. After a postdoctoral fellowship in Sydney Australia studying the physiology and morphology of cat retinal ganglion cells, he moved to the University of Washington to continue his work in primate retina.

(2013) John S. Werner, UC Davis  //  Color transformations across the life span: Circuits to compensation

Jack received his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1979. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research at the Institute for Perception – TNO in Soesterberg, The Netherlands. Jack then joined the Psychology faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he remained until 1999. He was an honorary fellow with Robert Weale at the Institute of Ophthalmology, London in 1986. In 2000, Jack moved to UC Davis where he holds joint appointments in the Departments of Ophthalmology & Vision Science, and Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior. Jack’s laboratory, the Vision Science & Advanced Retinal Imaging Laboratory, has combined studies of visual psychophysics, electrophysiology and high-resolution retinal imaging. He is the author of more than 250 peer-reviewed papers, four books, and is co-editor of The New Visual Neurosciences (MIT Press).

(2015) Donald I. A. MacLeod, UC San Diego  //  Color, cones, and connectivity

Don began his life in the outer Hebrides of Scotland, began his studies at the University of Glasgow, and completed his Ph.D. at Cambridge University under the tutelage of Paul Whittle. Following a post-doc with William Rushton, he joined the faculty at UCSD. Don has wide-ranging interests in vision, but is perhaps best known for his work on the early visual system, using nonlinearities to perform “psychophysical dissection.” 

(2017) David Brainard, University of Pennsylvania  //  Perceptual and neural untangling of surface-illuminant ambiguity

David is a long-time friend of the Fall Vision Meeting. His most well-known contributions are from his studies of color constancy, which have led to widely-used quantitative models. Notable achievements in his work include his development and distribution of the Psychophysics Toolbox (a software package for visual psychophysics), psychophysical measurements, his ability to link psychophysical data to quantitative models, and his ability to translate insights from biological vision into practical image processing solutions. More recently, he has applied the underlying principles of color constancy to how the visual system resolves ambiguity in the visual pathway. 

(2019) Christine A. Curcio, University of Alabama at Birmingham  //  Cone resilience, rod vulnerability: how precise retinal topography will help beat age-related macular degeneration

The Boynton lecture has been awarded to has been awarded to Dr. Christine Curcio for her seminal contributions to our understanding of human retinal neuroscience, including the effects of aging and age-related macular degeneration. Christine received a PhD in Neurobiology and Anatomy from the University of Rochester in 1981. In 1990, she joined the Department of Ophthalmology at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Christine's work focuses on aging and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the third largest cause of vision loss worldwide. She demonstrated that rod photoreceptors die before cones in aging and AMD and discovering and characterizing lipoproteins of ocular origin that constitute the main pathway of soft drusen, AMD’s pathognomonic lesions. Recently her lab, with clinical collaborators, validated optical coherence tomography and quantitative fundus autofluorescence, two imaging technologies essential to AMD diagnosis and management, and developed the first timeline of geographic atrophy, a currently untreatable AMD end-stage.

(2022) Andrew B. Stockman, University College of London  //  Untangling visual processing and sensitivity regulation using data from normals and from patients missing key molecules required for normal visual function

Andrew's contribution to vision science has been enormous. He is best known for his development of the most widely-used cone spectral sensitivity functions and associated luminous efficiency function. He has made important contributions to sensitivity regulation in cone and rod photoreceptors, flicker sensitivity in cones, and many other basic scientific and clinical areas. His website,, hosts publicly available data sets, some generated in his labs and others that needed dissemination. Whether we know it or not, most of us have interacted with a CSV file or two that was originally downloaded from Andrew's site. Andrew has been an active member of Optica/OSA for decades; during his tenure as the chair of the Color and Vision Technical Division, he was the key player in the founding of the Fall Vision Meeting.

(2023) Rachel Wong, University of Washington  //  Wiring specificity and plasticity of the vertebrate retina

Rachel has made numerous contributions to vision science and has a stellar mentoring and training record.  She is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Structure at the University of Washington in Seattle. She was a Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator, and is a Fellow of the National Vision Research Institute, a recipient of the ARVO Friedenwald award and the B.B. Boycott Prize, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Rachel’s research centers on the development of the neural retina, using a diversity of tools including multi-electrode arrays, single-cell patch-clamp techniques, and advanced imaging. This combination has provided an unprecedented view of how the highly specific synaptic connectivity that subserves retinal function is established and maintained and how it reacts to damage.  

(2024) Michael Webster, University of Nevada at Reno  //  

Since the early 1980s, Mike's research has advanced our understanding of visual coding and, in particular, visual adaptation – the process by which the visual system constantly modifies its operation to account for changes in the environment. Mike has published extensively on this phenomenon as it applies across the visual system – from early color vision mechanisms through to higher-level percepts such as blur, face identity and even digital mammograms. After a PhD from Berkeley and a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge, he joined the Psychology Department of the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) in 1994 and has made UNR a major center for vision research using both psychophysical and neuroimaging methods of investigation. He is now a Professor at UNR where he is also Co-Director of the Graduate MS/PhD Neuroscience Program, Co-Director of the Undergraduate BS Neuroscience Program and Director of the Center for Integrative Neuroscience. Mike has a long history of involvement with Optica (formerly OSA) and has served in many different  leadership positions within the organization. He has been involved with the Fall Vision Meeting since its inception in 2001 and organized the 2018 meeting in UNR. He became an OSA Fellow in 2000 and was awarded the Verriest Medal by the International Color Vision Society in 2019.