A History of the Alger Manufacturing Company, Or How the AlgerBrush and AlgerLight Built A Family Business From Innovation

The Introduction, Evolution, and Impact of LED Technology
September 29, 2023
The Introduction, Evolution, and Impact of LED Technology
September 29, 2023

Alger Manufacturing Company: Beginnings


The Alger Equipment  Company, or Alger Inc., is a Texas-based, family-owned and operated business that dates back to the 1960s. It all started with Dr. Leon Alger and his son Dr. David Alger–two men, two inventions, one company, and a singular unifying goal–to improve key medical industry practices through innovative technology. The AlgerLight is the company’s principal device, an inventive medical light that has dramatically shaped the fields of dentistry and orthodontics and which continues to grow in application. But the AlgerBrush, which improved on surgical eye procedures, was the first to hit the ground running, and it has never stopped. 


Alger Inc.: Continuing a Family Tradition

Today, Alger Manufacturing Company is headed by CEO David Alger, D.D.S., M.S.D., and his son and President of Alger, John Alger, MBA. What started as a small operation, literally run out of a garage in Conroe, TX, has grown into an internationally recognized supplier of essential medical devices. They have refined both the AlgerLight and the AlgerBrush, updating and advancing their designs to keep pace with modern medical needs. 


Dr. Leon Alger and the AlgerBrush


The AlgerBrush started as a kernel of a thought in the mind of Dr. Leon Alger in the 1960s. A practicing ophthalmologist for 40 years with a medical degree from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Leon Alger was immersed in the world of eye care and invested in refining procedures for the benefit of his patients. He was also a known tinkerer who loved the act of selling, a discovery he made in college when he worked as a salesman of Encyclopedia Britannica. The culmination of these drives resulted in the invention of the AlgerBrush, which he designed to remove Corneal Rust Rings in the human eye, a common condition caused by industrial accidents such as welding, sanding, and grinding. 


The AlgerBrush: An Elegant Instrument for Eye Surgery

The AlgerBrush improved on established surgical practices of the time, which relied either on the comparatively rudimentary process of scraping Corneal Rust Rings free of the eye using a 20 gauge needle or an expensive piece of specialty equipment manufactured in Switzerland. Offput by the high price of this Swiss instrument and spurred by the idea that he could produce a more precise tool at a lower cost, Dr. Leon Alger turned to his brother, a talented machinist with a pattern shop and foundry in Indianapolis, to produce the first AlgerBrush models. The AlgerBrush design was impressively compact. The size of a penlight, the AlgerBrush used a minute burr to polish Corneal Rust Rings out of the eye. The clean excision process achieved with the burr meant that the eye could heal much more quickly, making it a superior option for ophthalmologists and emergency room physicians.

Evolving The AlgerBrush

Dr. Leon Alger spent the bulk of the 1970s field testing this prototype with ophthalmologists, using their feedback to determine the optimum burr sizes and instrument configuration for the AlgerBrush. Come the 1980s, the AlgerBrush was significantly improved, and Dr. Leon Alger had moved beyond his brother’s manufacturing capabilities and into working with various machining and tooling companies. Today, the AlgerBrush can be found in nearly every hospital in the world. It is a foundational instrument for efficiently and effectively removing Corneal Rust Rings from the eye, and the addition of a diamond burr has further expedited and improved healing when using the AlgerBrush for pterygium removal. As an industry-standard instrument, the AlgerBrush has cemented the legacies of both Dr. Leon Alger and the Alger Manufacturing Company.


Dr. David Alger Headshot

Dr. David Alger

Dr. David Alger and the AlgerLight


The AlgerLight has had a similar trajectory. Like the AlgerBrush, it was conceived in the 1960s, this time by the next generation Alger, Dr. David Alger. While completing his Orthodontic residency at the University of Texas’s dental program in Houston, Dr. David Alger identified a need for better dentistry lighting options. He was not content with the generalized lighting offered by naturally-lit dental offices or the chair-saddling light units that were once popular in dental and orthodontics practices. Instead, he envisioned a ceiling-mounted dental lighting system that could from a distance focus the light beams as needed to see more clearly into the interior of the mouth. This design would also prove beneficial for dental surgical lighting in the years that followed.


The AlgerLight Improves on Dental Lighting and Surgical Lighting

Dr. David Alger got to work realizing the full potential of the AlgerLight in the 1970s, constructing prototypes and experimenting with a multitude of different bulbs and lighting setups. Through this trial and error approach, he refined the design and went to work building 80+ units of the ceiling-mounted dental lighting system in his garage in Conroe, TX, just outside of Houston. He sold the AlgerLight to dental and orthodontic practices in the Houston area. The practitioners at these facilities were impressed by the converging light beams, which greatly improved visibility, as well as the ease and versatility of movement afforded by the ceiling-mounted design. 

Evolving The AlgerLight

Like his father, Dr. David Alger sought the mechanical expertise of his uncle, whose Indianapolis operation produced the AlgerLight’s cabinet. This was one of the first improvements made to the AlgerLight over the decades. Another was a foot switch, which operators could use to control the light’s movement. In the 1980s, Dr. David Alger also developed a low-voltage version of the AlgerLight, which made integrating the device into standard ceiling wiring that much easier. Additional improvements included a wireless controller that originally used infrared technology but was later upgraded into a more versatile RF controller. A dual motor system improved the AlgerLight’s mobility allowing it to move vertically and horizontally with ease. 


The AlgerLight Gets a Design Overhaul

The most dramatic improvements, however, came in the 2000s, when Dr. David Alger, working with aircraft lighting engineers, gave the AlgerLIght a total redesign. The overhaul replaced the old bulbs with fixed LEDs that are brighter and require no adjustments, and the classic metal cabinet has since been exchanged for a more streamlined molded plastic enclosure.


John Alger Headshot

John Alger

A Bright Future for Alger Inc.

The Alger Equipment  Company continues to grow, as do its founding technologies. The passing of Dr. Leon Alger in the 1990s gave way to a second-generation father-son dynamic, and now Dr. David Alger and his son John Alger are shepherding Alger Inc. into the modern day. The company has never been more successful, and the AlgerLight and AlgerBrush are finding new applications, continuing to fulfill that defining original goal: to improve medical practices through innovative technology.

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