Algernon Reese was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. After graduating from Harvard Medical
School in 1921, he completed a residency at Roosevelt Hospital and an ophthalmology residency at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, with additional study in Boston and Vienna, Austria.
Reese entered private practice in New York in 1926. After serving as chief of clinic and pathologist at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, he rose through the ranks of the Presbyterian Hospital and the Vanderbilt Clinic to become attending ophthalmologist and clinical professor. After compulsory retirement, Reese completed the third edition of his textbook, Tumors of the Eye.
Reese led an exceptionally busy professional life. He ran and expanded a practice while making significant contributions of time and energy to surgical services, consultations, seminars, rounds, and pathology and training dozens of residents and fellows. In addition to his textbook, Reese wrote 200 scientific papers and contributed many chapters to textbooks.
Reese’s interests were extensive. Of special note was his work on the recognition, classification, diagnosis, and treatment of retinoblastoma. A second major focus was retrolental fibroplasia. Reese was among the first to separate this condition from hyperplasia of the primary vitreous. Throughout his career, he was fascinated by the various manifestations of melanomas and melanoma—like lesions, and he made many contributions in this area.
Reese was a charter member of the Ophthalmic Pathology Club (later the Verhoeff Society),
president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, chairman of the Section on Ophthalmology of the American Medical Association, president of the American Ophthalmology Society (AOS), and president of the American Board of Ophthalmology. He also served on numerous committee
Among Reese’s many honors was the 1961 Prize Medal of the ophthalmology section of the American Medical Association. He received the Howe Medal from the AOS in 1950, another Howe Medal from the Buffalo Ophthalmological Society in 1956, and the Proctor Award of the Association for Research in Ophthalmology in 1958 and presented 7 named lectures.