Fight for Sight is the first nonprofit organization in the United States to promote eye research, formed in 1946 as the National Council to Combat Blindness (NCCB). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote about the NCCB in its first year of existence, drawing attention to the goal of raising $50,000 for eye clinics and to treat retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Experimental treatments funded by NCCB began the first year at New York Hospital and the N.Y. Medical College of Flower-Fifth Avenue on a few hundred people with RP.
Founder Mildred Weisenfeld, along with blind Attorney General William E. Powers, presented a Norman Rockwell painting to President Harry Truman on Sept. 19, 1950, to honor his signing of legislation aiding the blind. In the same year, Weisenfeld and wealthy New York entrepreneur Mary Lasker encouraged adding the word “blindness” to the founding title of The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Blindness (NINDB), now the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Summer Student Fellowships and Post-Doctoral awards were added by the organization in 1955 to encourage young investigators pursuing ophthalmic research, providing a “funding ladder” leading up to Grants-in-Aid.
The name Fight for Sight was officially adopted by the organization in late 1959, and gradually replaced use of the original name. In 1983-84, FFS had a one-year moratorium on new awards to assess its giving strategy. From 1983-1988, the FFS Awards Program was administered in association with The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), assisted by Arthur M. Silverstein, PhD, of Johns Hopkins. Then in 1988-2002, FFS affiliated with National Society to Prevent Blindness (which became Prevent Blindness America after 1992) as a “research division,” during which ARVO still assisted with the selection of grant recipients. NSPB/PBA contributed funding. In 2003, FFS returned to selecting grant recipients though its own independent Scientific Review Committee.