Recollections of AO

Norman Rockwell AO Painting (~1930) promoting the Tillyer Lens

Response to an inquiry
on a 1907 Spectacle Lens Design Ad

I recently received an email request to give my opinion with regard to a lens design claim in an old, 1907, advertisement. It stated stating “the only practical eyeglass lenses come from Europe.”

Here is my response:

That is amusing. I assume it was from old marketing materials, probably from Zeiss! I am not sure how the term “practical” is defined, but I don’t see any merit to that claim. If there was some design feature that made European lenses different at that time, I am not clear what it was. I don’t believe they had implemented corrective curves in volume at that time.

Here is some lens design lineage from my perspective. AO began making lenses in volume in 1888 following (see last paragraph on the 1888 Tariff from this 1909 document:

After this date, lenses were produced in volume at AO and while not corrected curve design (none were then), they were used by millions and would assume they were “practical” to both the wearer and manufacturer. AO started making spectacle frames in 1833.

B&L and AO began employing corrected curves in the 1920’s. For AO, Doc Tillyer patented this feature and the resulting lenses were the Tillyer design. Here is a quote from my website on lens designers / Doc Tillyer:

"It was Dr. Edgar D. Tillyer’s particular job in the AO Research Division to study light before it enters the eye.  It is generally acknowledged the greatest single achievement of Dr. Tillyer and the group was the development of the marginally corrected lens.  The idea was not new.  As early as 1804, physicists recognized the problem of producing an accurate or corrected lens.  There was such a lens on the market in 1915, however, it had to be ground at the factory to assure accuracy.  “But the distinction of combining correction for both astigmatism and power, and the further distinction of making such complete correction available to the optical trades and professions through prescription service for the first time belong to ... the Research Division of American Optical Company under the capable leadership of Dr. Tillyer.”  (E. E. Orrington, History of Optometry, 1929).  But Tillyer and his group didn’t stop with the “Tillyer Lens.”  There were many other avant garde (for their time) developments such as the Ful-Vue Bifocal; Calobar Glass (absorption lenses used by the millions during World War II); Lensometer (first truly accurate method of measuring lens power); aviation lenses (no-power lenses to overcome prismatic distortion, used by fliers in World War II); Venturi aviation goggles; Cruxite glass; Tillyer cataract lenses; trial sets; additive power phoropter." - 150th AO Anniversary Summary of Doc Tillyer - 1982

This was extracted from this page:

There is an image of the patent on this page:

Dick Whitney June 2008

Return to AO Recollections Page

Return to AO History Main Page

Southbridge Recollections

Dick Whitney Recollections