• History

    In 1907, Electa Matilda Ziegler founded the Matilda Ziegler Publishing Company for the Blind in New York City. As the loving mother of a son who lost his sight in childhood, Mrs. Ziegler knew from personal experience how few resources were available to enrich the lives of the blind. With the support of her husband William Ziegler, an industrialist and philanthropist, she found a way to make a significant difference.

    At the time, communications reading material in Braille was limited. By creating and distributing a monthly, general-interest magazine in Braille, Mrs. Ziegler helped break through the isolation that defined the lives of blind people.

    In 1929 Mrs. Ziegler established the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind not only to fund the work of the Braille magazine but to fund other services to benefit the blind community.

    Her son, Mr. William Ziegler, Jr., carried forward his mother’s work. He was president of the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind, Inc. and of the Matilda Ziegler Publishing Company for the Blind, Inc., as well as the American Foundation for the Blind, and the American Foundation for Overseas Blind up until his death in 1958.

    This family’s support of the blind extends to the third and fourth generations of the Ziegler family, with Mr. William Ziegler, III who presided as President of the Foundation and the Publishing Company until his death in 2008.  Members of the Ziegler and Steinkraus families continue to run the Foundation with one important mission: to fund vision research.


    In 1996 the Foundation took a strong new direction and commitment to expand its focus to an invitational grants program to fund vision research. By forming a Scientific Advisory Committee of prominent scientists in vision research, led by Professor Marvin Sears, MD, founder and former chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Yale School of Medicine, they were able to realize this goal. In 2011, Dr. Sears retired and the Board appointed Michael C. Crair, PhD, Department of Neurobiology at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT and the inaugural William Ziegler III Associate Professor of Vision Research as the new Chair of the Committee. Joining Dr. Crair on the Committee are Christine A. Curcio, PhD FARVO, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD, Shiley Eye Center, UC San Diego.

    The William Ziegler III Professorship in Vision Research at the Yale School of Medicine was created by the family of William Ziegler III, a long-time member of the Yale Eye Center Advisory Board.

    The Foundation is profoundly grateful for the past contribution of Dr. Sears, who founded the grant program and mentored our grant recipients with his wisdom and experience as a physician, scientist and educator.

    Grant Program

    In Support of Exceptional New Talent

    The Foundation and its Scientific Advisory Committee invite top young researchers to apply for basic research funding. The Committee searches worldwide for appropriate grant candidates, reviews research proposals and presents selected winners to the Board of Directors. In the past 10 years, more than $4,500,000 in grant funds has been awarded to scientists whose research holds the promise of major impact.

    Many of our grantees have made unique discoveries, published findings and gained recognition for their work in the areas of macular degeneration, gene therapy, stem cell research and neuroscience of visual pathways.

    Appropriate candidates are basic scientists of exceptional insight and ability, with strong potential for making significant steps in understanding root causes of blindness and developing cures.

    Helping investigators at relatively early stages in their research, the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation can target funds for important impact upon vision science to benefit the careers of talented individuals.

    Scientific Advisory Committee

    Chair: Michael C. Crair, PhD
    William Ziegler III Associate Professor
    Department of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology & Visual Science
    Yale University School of Medicine

    Christine A. Curcio, PhD FARVO
    White-McKee Endowed Professor
    Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
    Director, AMD Histopathology Lab
    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD
    Professor and Director of Research
    Shiley Eye Center
    UC San Diego

Copyright ©2011 E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind