Letter from Don Whitney to Tim Tillyer (Doc Tillyers Grandson) dated September 29, 1997

Dear Tim,

I'll attempt to answer some of the questions in your most recent letter.

As to Doc's sitting on the desk, he sat as you have seen reported -- on the desk with one leg tucked under him, and the other hanging down.

I'm sure Doc made meaningful contributions toward the development of hearing aids, because when he got involved in something scientific, he always made a contribution. I can't, however, be specific.

Doc's position with AO from the 1950's on was not a doing of Warner Lambert (they didn't arrive on the scene until the late 1960's). As I understand it, the company wanted to expand into fields other than ophthalmic, and went outside for a "high powered" optical scientist. First they found R. Bowling Barnes, who they made Vice President of Research. There was the feeling that a research group ought to be in a more cosmopolitan environment than Southbridge, so they moved most of the research group to Stamford, CT. That lasted little more than a year, after which they moved the research group back to Southbridge into a new building, and hired Brian O'Brien who, at the time, was Dean of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester. Dr. O'Brien replaced Barnes as Vice President of Research, and he brought with him several of his associates. Simultaneously, AO became involved with the Todd-AO project. All of this can best be related by John Davis, who was part of research at the time. I had become Manager of Lens Development, and was not directly involved.

I can't remember ever being in Doc's home on Maple street. I had easy access to him during the daytime at AO.

As to secretaries, I knew Bessie and Esther, but suspect the third one may have been before my time. Again, John Davis can probably answer this. Doc's working relationship with his secretaries was excellent, at least during the time I was there..

The master lenses I referred to were used to calibrate lens curvatures. They, themselves, had been measured by Doc while he was at the National Bureau of Standards. Thus, optical surfaces which had been calibrated against these standards could be certified as having an accuracy which was traceable to the Bureau. In the ophthalmic world, at least, these lenses were unique to American Optical in the 1980's. No other ophthalmic optical company had such traceability to the Bureau, and the Bureau had stopped making measurements on such lenses many years ago. Since AO already had a set, the Bureau was willing to re-certify their lenses on a periodic basis, so the calibration was kept current.


Don Whitney