Optometrist Julius Louis Saks was the first son of Sidney and Deborah Saks. His family emigrated to South Africa from England in 1905. Sidney Saks became a farm and trading manager on the farm Lastfontein north of Pietersburg later giving this up for hotel-keeping, first at Bondelierskop and later at the old Masonic Hotel in Pretoria. Julius Saks completed his primary schooling in Pietersburg before obtaining a scholarship that enable him to matriculate at the King Edward VII High School in Johannesburg in 1915. After leaving school he became an apprentice pharmacist to A.A. Bones, a chemist in Pretoria.
He travelled to London, England in 1918 to study and qualify as pharmacist, and while there attended the school of optics, as it was then called, and passed the qualifying exams of both the British Optical Association and the Worshipful Company of spectacle makers, one of the guilds and Liveried Companies established by Royal Charter of King John in the seventeenth century. ”²J.L.”², as he came to be known later in life, returned to South Africa in 1920 and in 1922 commenced practice on his own in Pretoria. In 1924 he married Polly Lapidus, who emigrated to South Africa from Dublin, Ireland. In 1927 he joined the newly formed optical association and served on the council of this body from 1928 until his death, holding the offices of the vice-president from 1939-1947, and of president from 1947-1951, 1958-1959, and 1962-1965. He also served as editor of the Association”²s journal from 1960 to 1963, and from 1969 until his death.
The South African Optometric Association conferred Honorary Life Fellowship on Saks in 1946 and in 1951 conferred upon him its highest award, that of Honorary Life President, in recognition of outstanding contribution to the profession. At the Association”²s Golden Jubilee congress in 1974 he was awarded the distinguished service award. At the same congress Professor Henry Peters, president of the prestigious American Academy of Optometry, conferred the award of Honorary Life Fellowship of the academy upon Saks.
He was the fourth person, and the only non-American ever, to have received this honour. His successful defence of an historic court action in 1931 established the professional status of optometry in South Africa and the case Rex vs. Saks became a cornerstone of optometric legislation in many parts of the western world. Saks is survived by two sons, Brian and Sidney, both of whom became optometrists, and a daughter Deborah. His sons, following in their distinguished father”²s footsteps, made their mark on South African optometry; both becoming long-standing members of the Council of the South African Optometric Association and of serving as Vice-President and President.