Recollection of AO and the History of SOLA as written by Noel Roscrow
(one of its founders).

SOLA (Scientific Optical Laboratory of Australia), purchased AO in 1996! But Noel had connected with AO long before that.

Noel visited our house in Soubthbridge in the early 1960's when he met with Dad who was running the AOLITE Casting operation.

Dear Dick,                                                                                                                                            March 2000

I read with interest, Don's Aolite history and I fondly remember the times I spent with him.

It must have been about 1965-1967 that we developed a lens called Cruvera which was a CR39 lens with carbon included in the matrix which gave the effect of the wearer being able to see through cloudlike atmosphere. I was successful in introducing this lens to NASA, and in fact most of the astronauts up to and including Apollo 17. I recall that this caused some concern within AO as being a foreign manufacturer it was one of the very few companies that supplied goods for the training and orbital flights.

I cannot recall the name of the marketing manager of AO at the time but I do recall one discussion we had regarding AO's efforts to produce a product which would be able to replace SOLA's lens.

The visits I made to both B & L and AO never resulted in any technical knowhow exchange or licence as both companies wanted me to sign comprehensive confidentiality agreements which may have, in my opinion, infringed upon some of SOLA's research and development work. You will see from the following, I did licence HOYA in 1972.

At the time of my retirement at the end of 1982, we had approximately 5000 employees worldwide working on CR39 products and I believe that there are now some 8000. As you know the company is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. I have not owned a share in SOLA since I sold the company to Pilkington UK. I have not been happy with the decisions made by the management of the company and fear that the future for SOLA is not particularly good without a radical change of direction.

3M was a company that tried very hard to buy SOLA before its acquisition of Armolite and I know that the price they would have paid exceeded that paid by Pilkington. In those days I believed the style of management I had installed in the company had more chance of being compatible with the English style which was more acceptable to the employees rather than by a big multinational method of running acquired companies at that time.

For your information listed below is the history of SOLA

During 1968:

- Sola started its first overseas operation SOLA Japan Pty Ltd

- Incorporated in South Australia with a branch in Osaka, Japan


- SOLA Hong Kong was established

- SOLA signed an agreement with HOYA to provide 50,000 stock lenses

- Per month for a 5 year period and also signed an exchange of know how agreement to transfer technology to Japan on a
  royalty basis.

- SOLA International Consolidated was incorporated in Hong Kong

- Joint venture with Mazzucchelli resulting in incorporation of Mazzucchelli-SOLA S.p.A (later changed its name to SOLMA     S.p.A)

- SOLA Optical U.K. Ltd was incorporated

- SOLA Brasil Industria Optica Ltd was established in Petropolis

- SOLA USA leaves Chicago and transfers to Sunnyvale California

- Decision taken to manufacture in USA

- SOLA Optical Singapore Pte Ltd incorporated and commenced mould

- SOLA Optical Australia opened a branch in Sydney

- SOLA ADC Lenses Ltd commenced operations in Ireland


- SOLA Optical GmbH was established in Frankfurt

- SOLA Optical Japan Ltd commenced manufacturing in Osaka


- SOLA International Pty Ltd changed its name to SOLA Optical Australia Pty Ltd and SOLA Holdings Ltd changed name to SOLA International Holdings Ltd

- Acquisition of SOLA by Pilkington Brothers Ltd


- SOLA acquired the Mazzucchelli interest in SOLMA S.p.A. SOLMA, SOLA ADC and SOLA GmbH become fully owned subsidiaries of SOLA International Holdings Ltd.

Sola over these years won the maximum number of export awards given by Australia, e.g. Export excellence awards in 1966, 1971 and 1976. In 1979 SOLA received the Governor General's Export Excellence Award. In 1975 SOLA gained the Prince Phillip Prize for Australian Design for work on the commido.

SOLA also manufactured one of the first Helium Neon LASERs in 1957 and these I sold to the American universities for teaching purposes.

The team that was built over these years was highly competent, loyal and capable of tasks that beset a company with an aggressive growth record. It became necessary in 1978 to restructure the financial side of the company because of the difficulty in raising capital. The Board decided at this time to sell to Pilkington Brothers, the supplier of the glass for the moulds. I became Deputy Chairman of the Ophthalmic Division of Pilkington Brothers U.K.

I commenced in the ophthalmic/optical industry at the age of 14, grew up in the industry and travelled the world constantly learning about the industry. In fact, for seven years I did not spend more than 14 consecutive days in any one city in the world, as I was constantly travelling and working to make SOLA an international world leader in its industry.

Kind regards


AO History Page

AO Recollections Page

Dick Whitney Recalls Noel's visit