Honoring the Legacy of Alumnus and Former Faculty Member John G. Bellows


John G. Bellows, MD, ’35 MS, ’39 PhD, served on Feinberg’s faculty for 36 years. Recently, his son Randall T. Bellows, ’71 MD, honored his father’s legacy at Northwestern with a philanthropic commitment to support education initiatives at the medical school.

“John Bellows was a visionary, and through his teachings, surgical techniques, instruments and many students, that vision has been carried forward in millions of people,” said Randall Bellows. “His children, myself included, learned from him that helping others is our surest way to achieve a meaningful life.”

A Notable Career in Ophthalmologic Innovation

The late John Bellows was a gifted ophthalmologist, inventor, professor and prolific author. He was born John Goldfreed Bellokovsky in Russia in 1903. His family came to the United States in 1907, where their Bellokovsky surname was changed to Bellows. His father worked as a candy maker selling his product on the street corners of Chicago.

Bellows was a pioneer in cryosurgery — the use of super-cold for removal of cataracts in the eye — and invented a widely used surgical instrument for the procedure. Another one of his inventions, the principals of which are still in use today, is the autorefractor. This measures eyeglass prescriptions automatically with enhanced accuracy.

After earning his bachelor of science and his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1927 and 1930, respectively, he earned a master of science from Northwestern in 1935. In that same year, he joined Northwestern’s medical school faculty as an associate clinical professor of Ophthalmology. He received his doctorate from Northwestern in 1938 and went on to ascend the ranks at Northwestern, eventually retiring as associate professor emeritus in 1971. He also served in the United States Army Medical Corps in World War II and attained the rank of major.

“Like light, ophthalmic knowledge is unmeasurable and bounded only by the vision of those who seek it.”

—From “A View to the Future,” written in 1972 by John G. Bellows, MD, ’35 MS, ’39 PhD, and his son, then-recent Feinberg graduate Randall T. Bellows, ’71 MD.

In the 1970s, Bellows founded Mediphone, a nationwide service that put licensed physicians in contact with specialists of many varieties to assist in diagnosis and treatment via telephone. With the development of the internet, Bellows’ vision of the future is now being realized in numerous business endeavors that connect physicians and patients, thus saving time and lives. Mediphone was a non-profit extension of the American Society for Contemporary Medicine and Surgery, which Bellows also founded and directed.

A devoted husband and father, Bellows and his wife, Mary, had five children: Randall, David, Diane, Deborah and Sandra. He passed away in 1993.