David Pickwell

Professor of Optometry and Methodist Minister, David Pickwell, taught ophthalmic optics at
Bradford Technical College from 1954 until his transfer with the opening of Bradford University.

David PickwellNothing in David’s background indicated that he would be come an eminent professor and author of a classic textbook used by ophthalmic students everywhere. The son of a Lincoln hairdresser, (Lionel) David grew up in Oxford where he left school at 14, without any qualifications. He went to work for a local optician who saw his potential and encouraged him to take a correspondence course to supplement his practical experience.

His studies continued with a 2 year course in ophthalmic optics, after National Service in the Army. He qualified as an ophthalmic optician in 1950 and obtained a position as Assistant Lecturer in ocular anatomy and physiology at West Ham College, where he taught for 4 years.

In 1954 David came to Bradford Technical College as the first full-time lecturer in Optics in the Department of Physics. His passion and commitment were such that he developed and expanded the provision and recruited additional lecturers so that Optometry became a separate department with David as Head.

He created undergraduate and postgraduate programmes ready for the transfer to the University of Bradford, where served as Professor and Head of Optometry until he retired in 1992. His book Binocular Vision Anomalies remains a classic text and he also wrote numerous papers.

David was a member of the Council, and Senior Examiner to the College of Optometrists and President of the International Optometric & Optical League and was the recipient of numerous awards.

He was President of the British Optical Association from 1972 to 1973. Visitors to the Association’s museum now enjoy a personal collection he made which gives some indication of his sense of fun. David spent many years trawling antique fairs, flea markets and boot sales to build up an impressive assortment of spectacle wearing character and Toby jugs.

He was also a keen ornithiologist and watercolour painter, who enjoyed painting birds. A very caring man he devoted much of his time to others, through youth work, the scout movement and was a Samaritan.

David had been a committed Methodist since a teenager and a lay preacher for many years. When he retired from teaching he was ordained and became the Rev Pickwell, Methodist minister, serving the West of Bradford from Allerton Methodist Church for 14 years until his death. He also acted as chaplain to the Lord Mayor of Bradford and in this capacity gave a reading at an official ceremony held in the memorial garden of Centenary Square following the tragic death of PC Sharon Beshenivsky.

David died in June 2006.

Photograph courtesy of the University of Bradford