The Shack Hartmann wavefront sensor is a technology that was developed at the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona in the late 1960s. It is a robust technique for measuring wavefront error that was originally developed for large telescopes to measure errors induced by atmospheric turbulence. The Shack Hartmann sensor has evolved to become a relatively common non-interferometric metrology tool in a variety of fields. Its broadest impact has been in the area of ophthalmic optics where it is used to measure ocular aberrations. The data the Shack Hartmann sensor provides enables custom LASIK treatments, often enhancing visual acuity beyond normal levels. In addition, the Shack Hartmann data coupled with adaptive optics systems enables unprecedented views of the retina. This paper traces the evolution of the technology from the early use of screen-type tests, to the incorporation of lenslet arrays and finally to one of its modern applications, measuring the human eye.