Passings: Martin Steinbach remembered as a leader in vision research

Professor Emeritus Martin “Marty” J. Steinbach, a long-serving faculty member of York University, will be remembered for his leading contributions to vision research and vision health in Canada. Steinbach, a founding member of the Centre for Vision Research, died on Saturday, June 24 at the age of 75.

Steinbach was hired at York University by Ian P. Howard (1927-2013) in 1968 as his first postdoctoral fellow, as a research associate and as a special lecturer. In 1970, he became an assistant professor and was promoted to associate professor in 1973. From 1981 until 2002, Steinbach served as a professor of psychology and biology at Atkinson College and the Faculty of Science. He became a distinguished research professor in 2000.

Steinbach was director of Research and Promotions, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of Toronto; director of the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute (2006-2013); senior scientist in the Krembil Research Institute; professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences at the University of Toronto; and, senior scientist in the Department of Ophthalmology at The Hospital for Sick Children.

In 1988, Steinbach along with Jean Real Brunette, formed the Vision Health Research Council of Canada whose mission is to unify Canadian vision research and to advocate for vision research funding. He had an important impact on eye research and vision health in Canada.

Steinbach’s many awards and distinctions include the Carl Kupfer Award, from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, “for promoting vision research in Canada”. The Vision Sciences’ Faculty Research Day Lecture is named in his honour in perpetuity.

Steinbach’s areas of research interests included eye movements, eye muscle proprioception, spatial and motion perception, stereoscopic vision, central vision loss, and visual illusions. While studying the ocular motor function of patients treated for strabismus, Steinbach found that pre- and post-surgical measures of visual direction provided insights as to the sources of information of the position of the eyes in the orbit. This information eventually led to the discovery of the Palisade Endings in humans.

Steinbach worked extensively with people with vision loss (such as amblyopia or loss of an eye) and found that some aspects of vision were actually improved. These studies have paved the way to important new therapies and a greater understanding of the brain’s plasticity. In studying the central vision loss produced by diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, his research had been directed toward the design of effective techniques to measure residual visual acuity and to improve reading ability.

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Martin J. and Eric Jon Steinbach Vision Science Research Fund for the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute at the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation would be appreciated by the family. Please call 416-340-4430 or visit www.tgwhf.ca/tribute for more.

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