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Modern optometry is derived from the work of a number of Europeans in the 19th century who were interested in measuring the eye and in inventing instruments for testing sight. Research in physics, mathematics, and optics helped early optometrists make significant discoveries. As research progressed, professional organizations were formed to gain legal recognition for optometry and to establish education programs for optometrists.

Two particular landmarks in the development of the profession of optometry are noteworthy. A national association of optometrists was first formed in 1897. In 1901, Minnesota passed the first state law regulating the practice of optometry. Today, every state as well as the District of Columbia has such a law. The number of optometrists has continued to grow to meet the demands of the increasing population in the United States.

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