Charles R. Munnerlyn received his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1962 from Texas A&M University. He served in the army for the following three years before attending the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, where he earned his doctorate in 1969.
As head of research and development for Tropel Inc., Munnerlyn designed the first device to digitally calculate refractive errors in the eye. This autorefractor substantially reduced the time it took optometrists to determine the amount of correction needed for a given patient. In 1979, he also developed an instrument to test pressure in the eye to detect glaucoma.
In 1983, he began work on the excimer laser, which would later provide a safer way of improving vision. He and his colleague, Terry Clapham, bought their technology and formed VISX Incorporated in 1987. The technology was eventually approved by the FDA, and is used today in vision correction surgeries. VISX is now a part of Johnson & Johnson.
Munnerlyn is a Fellow of OSA and recipient of the 2007 Edwin H. Land Medal.