Smith-Kettlewell's Vision
Smith-Kettlewell's Vision


When S-K began in 1963, it was a part of the medical research group at Stanford's old San Francisco facility. It has since grown into a fully independent Institute, world-renowned for the diversity and quality of its research on normal vision, on eye diseases, and on sensory rehabilitation. We chose to remain independent, rather than becoming affiliated with the excellent academic institutions surrounding us, so that we could control our own destiny. We manage our own facilities, decide our own budget, and set our own research priorities.


From the beginning, Smith-Kettlewell has encouraged collaboration between the clinic and the laboratory, recognizing that the clinician's knowledge of disease management can aid in determining which problems, through controlled laboratory studies, offer the best chance for finding effective solutions.


The scientific staff reflects a deliberate balance among the three types of researchers: clinician scientists, laboratory scientists, and sensory rehabilitation scientists. Each group brings a different perspective to the problems and solutions, a different mindset and a different set of tools and techniques. Smith-Kettlewell also has a range of relevant disciplines (ophthalmology, optometry, physics, engineering, neurology, physiology, and psychology) and a range of ages and experience. This arrangement produces the diversity required for scientific creativity.

Common Visions

The scientists at Smith-Kettlewell are chiefly interested in visual development, binocular vision/strabismus, and low vision/blindness. Our research asks how the normal human visual system develops from infancy, and what goes wrong when disease, disability or aging alters normal functioning. It also addresses the consequences of disease and disability, an objective that is well served by our group of low vision and blindness rehabilitation scientists.

Autonomy and Support

What makes this Institute unique? First is the unparalleled autonomy of the principal investigators. They choose their specific research topics, find public or private sources of funding for their laboratories, and select their own research staff. Second, the atmosphere among investigators is mutually supportive. There is much consultation in the hallways, much sharing of successes and failures. Younger investigators are assisted by more experienced investigators in identifying suitable research projects and in writing their first proposals. Another way that young scientists receive support and training is through our active Fellowship program. Third, our administrative staff at Smith-Kettlewell is considered a valuable part of the scientific team. They work to make the science go smoothly by helping with research proposals and budgets, identifying new funding sources, and managing facilities for the benefit of the scientific staff.


Our satellite program allows continued scientific collaboration with former fellows, as well as access to a larger patient base for research studies. By providing interim support, seed funds for pilot projects, and in-house funding for extra technical staff, the Institute uses its resources to reward excellent science and citizenship.