Alan C. Bird is best known for his work on retinitis pigmentosa and research into inherited retinal degeneration. This research focused on the clinical and genetic documentation of families who exhibited retinal dystrophies and identification of the genes responsible for the retinal disorders.
Dr. Bird was born in London. He studied neurology and neurosurgery and earned his medical degree from University of London at Guys Hospital. Later, he turned to ophthalmology and completed a residency at Moorfields Eye Hospital and a fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida. In 1969, he returned to London and took a staff appointment at the Institute of Ophthalmology at Moorfields, where he remained until the end of his career.
In the 1970s, Dr. Bird’s interest in the retina emerged and he concentrated on degenerative and inherited diseases. While at the Institute of Ophthalmology, he worked with numerous fellows in a variety of multidisciplinary activities involving electrophysiology, specialized imaging, psychophysics, immunology, and pathology. This multidisciplinary and collaborative research has resulted in the development of new technologies to define the clinical characteristics of retinal disease. His studies have also correlated abnormal gene expression with metabolic dysfunction at the cellular level. This work has led to a clearer understanding of retinal degenerative diseases, with significant implications for clinical management relative to better genetic counseling for patients and the examination of new approaches for treatment, including gene therapy.
Dr. Bird has written more than 370 papers published in refereed journals as well as 70 book chapters. In recognition of his work, he has received The Duke Elder, Doyne and Bowman medals in Great Britain, and the Prix Chauvin in France. His named lectures include the Jules Stein Lecture (UCLA), the Krill Memorial Lecture (Chicago), the Bjerrum Lecture (Denmark), the Ernst Custodis Lecture (Germany), the Ilmari Rendahl Lecture (Sweden), the Donders Lecture (Holland), the Edward Jackson Lecture (AAO), the Jules François Lecture (Belgium), the William Mackenzie Medal (Scotland), the Wright Lecture (University of Iowa), the Lang Lecture (Royal Society of Medicine), and the Clement McCulluch Lecture (University of Toronto). He is an Honorary Fellow in The Royal Society of Medicine and the American College of Surgeons. In 2004, he received the Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research.