RIP Tim Bowden

The British Contact Lens Association has paid tribute to one of optometry’s leading lights, Tim Bowden, who has died suddenly at the age of 65.

Tim was a contact lens optician who started in optics more than 40 years ago. 

He first became interested in contact lenses when a friend co-opted his astigmatic eyes as a contact lens case study. He has worn a variety of different types of lenses and specialised in contact lens fitting ever since.

He was a visiting lecturer in the contact lens department at the City and Islington College, London, for 15 years, and served as a practical contact lens examiner for the Association of British Dispensing Opticians. He was a proud Fellow of the BCLA.

In 1983 he and his optometrist wife Lis opened their first independent practice in Gravesend followed by another in Herne Bay, Kent. Their practice in Gillingham, Kent remains open. 

Until recently Tim had been Honorary ISCLS treasurer and was very active in fund raising for Optometry Giving Sight. He had a strong interest in myopia control and orthokeratology.

It is believed Tim died of a heart attack while training for this weekend’s 100 mile Ride London cycling event, where he was due to be raising money for Vision Aid Overseas – helping to bring eye care services and low cost spectacles to remote and isolated communities in Africa.

Brian Tompkins, immediate past President, said: “The BCLA and optometry in general has lost one of the most dedicated and charming men we have ever known.

“He was the presenter of our history at many Visionaries conferences and it is perhaps fitting that he now ranks among the true Pioneers of optics.” 

Tim wrote a book, titled ‘Contact Lenses: The Story’, and the research for the book spawned the Contact Lens Collection at the BOA Museum in London, co-founded with Andrew Gasson, which is the only actively administered specialist contact lens collection open to the public in the world.

The book, which was researched exhaustively and resulted in Tim undertaking 47,000 miles of air travel, 12,000 miles by car and 227 personal interviews, also spawned a project to erect commemorative plaques to honour contact lens pioneers both in the UK and elsewhere. 

Tim has held a variety of posts within UK optical professional organisations and has researched and written various articles on contact lens history and also the habits and opinions of contact lens wearers.

In 2012 Tim was presented with the OTTO Wichterle Gold Medal for his services to contactology by the Czech Contact Lens Society.

BCLA President Keith Tempany said: “It is a huge shock. I was only sharing a joke with Tim and having a chat at our recent conference in Liverpool. His death is a huge loss to both the profession and the BCLA. Our heartfelt thoughts are with Lis and his family.”

He leaves behind wife Lis and their two sons, Ben and Chris.