Obituary: Professor Geoffrey Vernon Ball
Author: Joe Ayling
Tony Sabell, Senior Tutor (left) and Professor Geoff Ball, head of Department (right) Aston University, Ophthalmic Optics Department 1970
Aston University was sad to report the news that former academic Professor Geoffrey Vernon Ball passed away on March 27. He was described by a friend as 'a great advocate of our profession'.
Professor Ball joined Aston in 1951 and was the first full-time lecturer in ophthalmic optics outside of London.
An independent Department of Ophthalmic Optics was established in 1968 and Professor Ball made head of department. He was then raised to the rank of professor in April 1970 and remained in post until 1981.
In the 1970s, Professor Ball helped pioneer a full-time two-week work experience course for Aston students in NHS hospitals. ‘Our condolences are with the family,’ a statement by the university added.
Mark Smith, a friend of Professor Ball’s, described him as ‘an excellent academic and a very kind man’.
He added: ‘I first met Geoff Ball in the early 1970's. Ophthalmic Optics, as it was then, was a totally different profession. The pace of life was much slower, an eye examination could take ages, it was allowed to display frames in the practice window but it was not allowed to show the price! One of my friends would take a coffee break in the morning, go home for lunch and take a tea break in the afternoon. But refraction was a still a skilled matter which was much the same as today. In fact, things like Turville Infinity Balancing would be just as confusing today as it was then.
‘At the time, professors were a rare breed. Geoff Ball had served as a junior officer in the Royal Navy during WW2. He then qualified as an ophthalmic optician before starting on his academic career. His department at Aston was probably the most friendly one that I have ever encountered.
‘There was a sense that everyone on the staff were aiming to give their very best to the students. And he was always somewhere in the background, keeping an eye on everyone. He was a skilled and knowledgeable man. But, when a friend of mine asked him a question about the derivation of the term "mires" in the keratometer, his secretary told us that he spent the next hour looking through his books for the answer. And this really gave an insight into his character.
‘He was not a proud man but was proud of his profession and was conscious of the changes which were happening. At a later date, when I needed advice, he was equally supportive of me with that same compassion and wisdom which he gave to everyone.
‘I suppose that all of us make promises to keep in touch. I must admit that I failed to do so. I knew the family of Dr Archer-Hall and they had some contact with him until the late 1990s. I regret not making the effort. But I will always remember him as a kind and generous man who was a great advocate of our profession.’