Dr. Herbert Wertheim was trained in the U.S. Navy in physics, mathematics, chemistry, electronics, and avionics, and he became a Navy aviator and engineer. He as an instrument technologist at General Dynamics and one of the first NASA engineers at Cape Canaveral. Dr. Wertheim received his associate’s degree in engineering at Brevard Community College, studied optical engineering at the University of Florida, and earned his O.D. in 1967 at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. He served as a distinguished lecturer in Physiological Optics and Optometry at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and as adjunct professor of physics in the graduate program at the University of Miami, Florida. He also served as director of the University of Tennessee Medical School Computer Center. Dr. Wertheim went on to conduct decades of his own clinical practice, specializing in visual neurology and optometry at the University Eye and Medical Center in Coral Gables, Florida.
As a researcher at the University of Miami, Dr. Wertheim began his investigation of the dangers of ultraviolet light and the use of UV filters to protect the human eye — the beginning of a career of discovery, invention, and entrepreneurship that has helped prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, and other degenerative eye diseases in millions of people. In 1971, he founded Brain Power Incorporated (BPI), which introduced ultraviolet-absorbing dyes in 1983 and ultimately became the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic tinting instruments and chemicals. The research conducted by Dr. Wertheim and his teams has resulted in more than 100 patents and trademarks. His work as clinician and inventor has raised the standard of optometric care.
Dr. Wertheim has also had a broad and deep impact through his philanthropy and leadership in higher education and the community. This includes his more than 30 years of service as Florida International University Foundation (FIU) President and Trustee — and his conceiving of the need for a College of Medicine at FIU. Under his leadership, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at FIU was established in 2007; the new college’s major curriculum was preventative health care through a neighborhood help community outreach program.
In 2015, the University of Florida named the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and made Dr. Wertheim Honorary Chairman of the college in recognition of his engineering and medical accomplishments. The gift made by Dr. Wertheim and his wife, Nicole, in support of the College of Engineering was the largest cash gift the university had ever received, part of a $300 million fundraising program for the college. Following this extraordinary investment, the college achieved its goal of serving 10,000 engineering students with more than 300 faculty in 2017. The University of Florida was subsequently rated ninth best public university in the U.S., and Dr. Wertheim’s involvement has catapulted the institution to achieve tens of millions of dollars beyond its annual fundraising goals.
In 2012, the Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Family Foundation made its second largest gift to Florida International University to establish the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences. This funding allowed for increased faculty and scholarships. The gift and recommended curriculum and admittance standards raised the college's ranking from 350th in 2011 to 54th in 2016, according to U.S. News & World Report. Enrollment is now approaching 3,000 students. The 2017 winter graduation granted 57 Nurse Practitioner Doctorates and PhDs, as well as hundreds of masters and bachelors degrees.
In all, the Wertheim Foundation has contributed more than $100 million to Florida higher education to advance preventive and community health care.
In 2018, the Wertheim Foundation made a gift to establish the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California, San Diego. This endeavor has created a 21st-century school of public health — a place to blend the very best education, innovation and care with leading-edge technology. The school
facilitates collaboration, innovation, and leadership, preparing its students to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex global health landscape.
In 2021 the Wertheim Foundation made a gift to the Herbert Wertheim School of Optometry and Vision Science. This gift will ensure access for the best and brightest students, build the specialized expertise of the doctors of today and revolutionize curriculum and training for the doctors of tomorrow, expand the profession’s reach to broader populations and dramatically increase training opportunities through residency. In doing so the partnership will enable and sustain optometry’s pioneering spirit and propel the profession into the future.