by Rick Mendosa
My article in Diabetes Wellness Letter on “Meter Memories” was only possible because of four great interviews that I was able to obtain. The marketing expert was Charlie Suther, the first patient to use the meter was Dick Bernstein, and the inventor was Tom Clemens. Michael Miller had been credited as the inventor of the first meter, and his interview clarified his role.
This is the Ames Reflectance Meter that Tom loaned me. Here I am together with my cockatiel “Knyaz.” The meter says inside the flap at the top:
Ames Company, Division Miles Laboratories Inc., Elkhart, Indiana, U.S.A.
I started working on the article as a labor of love even before the magazine gave me the assignment. I realized that the invention of blood glucose meters was extremely important, but little known. In fact, when I started working on it, I didn’t even know that the first blood glucose monitor was the Ames Reflectance Meter. Based on what somebody had told me I thought the first meter was the Eyetone and even said that in an article a couple of years earlier.
Very little of the history of blood glucose meters had previously been published. Most important was the introduction to Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution by Richard K. Bernstein, M.D. (Little, Brown, 1997). Dr. Bernstein has also made this available online.
It was Michael Reynolds, the founder of DiabetesWebSite.com, who gave me the lead to Charlie Suther. Michael told me that Charlie was working for Polymer Technology Systems in Indianapolis. In fact, he had retired from that company, but the receptionist told me that he still lived in town.
The first page of the first patent for the Ames Reflectance Meter, the first blood glucose meter, issued September 14, 1971. The inventor was Anton Hubert (Tom) Clemens, who kindly lent his copy of the patent to me.