On February 3, 1987, Leonard Flom and Aran Safir,ophthalmologists, received a patent for their ground breaking Iris recognition system.
It was ophthalmologist Frank Burch who first proposed the concept of using iris patterns as a method to identify an individual in 1936.
However, (arguably) it were Drs. Leonard Flom and Aran Safir who first proposed the concept that no two irides are alike. They also developed and patented an iris identification concept in 1987. However, they had no actual algorithm or implementation to perform it.
In 1995, the US Defense Nuclear Agency prepared a prototype unit based on the patented technology.
Flom approached Dr. John Daugman to develop an algorithm to automate identification of the human iris. In 1994, John Daugman developed and patented the first actual algorithms to perform iris recognition. Leonard Flom, Aran Safir and John Daugman founded a startup IriScan, which widely licensed these algorithms.
Here is an iris recognition camera model 2100 developed by IriScan.
The patent expired in 2005, which opened the industry for other players to develop and market their own algorithms for iris recognition.
In May 2013, Drs. Leonard Flom and Aran Safir were inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame for their contribution to Iris recognition. Here is LinkedIn profile of Dr. Leonard Flom – https://www.linkedin.com/in/leonard-flom-725a2349.
Sources: FBI.gov (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/fingerprints_biometrics/biometric-center-of-excellence/files/iris-recognition.pdf)
Publication number: US4641349 A
Patent Title: Iris recognition system
Publication type: Grant
Application number: US 06/703,312
Publication date: 3 Feb 1987
Filing date: 20 Feb 1985
Priority date: 20 Feb 1985
Fee status: Paid
Also published as: CA1244552A, 6 More »
Inventors: Leonard Flom, Aran Safir
Original Assignee: Leonard Flom, Aran Safir