The Marshall M. Parks Medal

2014 Silver Medalist

1995-1996 AAPOS President, Bronze Medalist

David L. Guyton, MD

Teacher, innovator and inventor of patents for optical instrumentation to detect strabismus. Critical thinker and educator, he earned international recognition in ocular motility, with expertise in adjustable suture surgery and clinical optics.

David L. Guyton Headshot


David Guyton is a problem solver, a clinical innovator, an inventor and a teacher. With an undergraduate degree in physics, he followed his grandfather, father, and uncle into medicine, becoming the first of a record ten siblings all physicians. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1969, completed a fellowship at the Laboratory of Neural Control at NIH, and published one of his first research papers in the journal Science.

He completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins in 1976. After a fellowship in ocular motility and strabismus with Dr. Gunter von Noorden at the Baylor College of Medicine, he returned to Johns Hopkins as Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus in 1978, where he continues to serve as the Zanvyl Krieger Professor of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Guyton served as the arms and legs for his physiologist father, who had been crippled by polio at the beginning of a cardiac surgery residency. Arthur Guyton had an inventive mind and took pride in self-sufficiency. He maintained a machine shop at home to construct apparatus for his research and to enable his children to repair, and to design and build, anything and everything. It was not surprising; therefore, that David gravitated toward a career in which he used his hands, guided by his own ingenuity. 

In his ophthalmic career at The Wilmer Institute, Dr. Guyton’s contributions to both clinical strabismus and ophthalmic optics have achieved international recognition. He combines his expertise in clinical optics with his facility in the design and construction of optical/mechanical instruments, which he does in his own basement machine shop in his home. He invented what became the American Optical automated refractor, as well as the Potential Acuity Meter for assessing the potential visual acuity in patients with cataracts. He elucidated the proper techniques for prescribing cylinders, how to hold ophthalmic prisms, and the proper methods for centering corneal surgical procedures.

In the strabismus realm, he gave us insights into subjective versus objective ocular torsion, the exaggerated traction test for assessing oblique muscle tightness, a comprehensive treatise that explains the long-elusive origins of oblique muscle overaction and A and V patterns, eye movement recordings to explain the origins and purpose of dissociated vertical deviation, a diagnostic test for the dragged-fovea diplopia syndrome, new techniques for adjustable suture strabismus surgery in children as well as in adults, theories of how and why strabismus changes over time, and the concept that many cases of “congenital” superior oblique paresis are simple “basic cyclovertical deviations,” not caused by paresis after all.

 For more than 30 years Dr. Guyton has been the primary teacher of ophthalmic optics and clinical refraction in the major basic science courses and ophthalmology review courses in the United States. He has also played active roles in the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the National Eye Institute. He has served as President of both the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

The most recent of his 320+ publications and 14 U.S. Patents deal with remote optical systems and automated screening devices for detection of strabismus and defocus in infants and children. For his contributions, he received the prestigious Mildred Weisenfeld Award from ARVO in May, 2007. He had already received the Alcon Research Institute Award, the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) Senior Scientific Investigator Award, and the RPB Disney Award for Amblyopia Research.

He and his talented and devoted wife Jan have three sons and eight grandchildren, and together they still pursue the elusive balance between academic ophthalmology and family life.