The modern fiber-optic surgical headlight has represented a quantum advance from the screw-in light bulb headlight headlight which was commonly use throughout the world. The editor and his fellow neurosurgical residents at Johns Hopkins Hospital through the 1960s were always identifiable by the characteristic red burn mark occupying the middle of their foreheads caused by frequent contact with the operating surgeon’s headlight whenever the surgeon turned their heads. To add insult to injury the illumination produced by such headlights just wasn’t much better than that produced by a a flashlight.
When I advanced from being the chief resident in neurosurgery at Hopkins to being a Navy neurosurgeon in 1967 heading up a 40 bed unit I made a personal resolve to try to come up with something better. I was fortunate that one of my optometrist father‘s classmates at the Columbia University School of Optometry had a son, Richard Finebloom who was now in charge of the firm Designs for Vision which specialized in manufacturing eyeglass magnifying loupes and telescopes. With the advent of fiberoptic cables it was clear that the combination of magnification in conjunction with a highly concentrated beam of light would allow for microsurgical technique to be routinely employed without the need for an expensive and cumbersome operating microscope.
Starting with the first models in 1967 the Burton Fiberoptic headlight emerged from a process of trial and error. On February 29, 1972, the unit shown to the left featuring a welder’s headpiece and a universal swivel lens assembly, was awarded U.S. Patent 3,645,254. I have continuously used this with 4.5x eyeglass operating telescopes over the years. Today it would be unusual for a surgeon to not routinely use this technology.