WE HELPED MAKE AMERICA A NATION WITH VISION
February 16, 1983
One-hundred-fifty years ago a new era was dawning for America. It was then, William Beecher, a young Southbridge, Massachusetts jeweler, began experimenting with manufacturing techniques that would make spectacles inexpensive enough for the common man. Before long Beecher’s little company was a thriving corporation serving nearly every ocular need, with a constant stream of new and revolutionary products. Today AO Scientific Instruments, division of Warner-Lambert, carries on that tradition by developing and manufacturing the most widely used and respected instruments in the ophthalmologic field. So, when you see our name, think of a company with a century-and-a-half of experience behind us and a bright new day just ahead.
Lineage of AO Scientific Instruments
Dates Business Name
1833-1840 William Beecher
1840-1842 Ammidown & Putney
1842-1849 Ammidown & Son
1850-1859 Ammidown & Co.
1860-1862 Beecher & Cole
1862-1869 Robert H. Cole & Co.
1869-1982 American Optical Co.
1982 AO Scientific Instruments
American Optical was founded in 1833 by William Beecher as a small optical frame shop in Southbridge, Mass. In 1865 George Washington Wells, a typical American innovator-industrialist of the nations growing years, organized the American Optical Company.
From that point American Optical set quality of product as its hallmark, took the whole world for its market and the entire optical spectrum for its product.
AO has pioneered lens improvements that permit people with impaired eye-sight to see more clearly. In many cases these innovations have become standards of the industry and are in use around the world.
Millions of working people depend on AO protective glasses and goggles to protect their eyesight.
AO Microscopes set a standard of excellence in instruments ranging from student models to advanced research systems.
AO is also playing a key role in the development of the new technology of Fiber Optics which is finding broad application in Industry, Medicine and Communication.
AO holds a leadership position in the development of Ophthalmic Instruments for detecting eye disorders and sight deficiencies. No one can duplicate the experience and manufacturing knowledge gained through the design, manufacture, and marketing of these instruments.
1900 - Trial Lens Sets
AO produced a trial lens set design by Charles Prentice. This set was composed of biconcave minus lenses of true curve out the convex plus lenses were designed to neutralize the minus lenses. This meant that the lenses were almost exactly true vertex refractions or effective power. The first lenses so made. This principle is still used in our trial lens sets. Only the rings & cases have been updated.
1900 - Trial Frames
Used in conjunction with trial lenses.
1917-1918 - U.S. Entered World War I - AO Produced:
Precision Lenses Telescope Sights
Gun/Bomb Sights Panoramic Sights
1921 - Lensometer first marketed
prescription lens measurements.
Early Lensometer (Serial #002) - AO Museum Collection
1925 - Acquired DeZeng Instrument Company of Camden, New Jersey
eye, ear, nose and throat diagnostic instruments. Most of the
DeZeng instruments were redesigned.
1926 - Giantscope
1926 - AO VistaMast Giantscope
Loupe, Beebe and Berger head magnifiers for surgery.
1928 - Otoscope
examine the ear.
1931 - Stereo-Orthoptor
1931 - Ophthalmoscope (Friedenwald)
Developed with the cooperation and embodying ideas and methods of Dr. Jonas F. Friedenwald, Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology of John Hopkins Medical School.
1932 - Schematic Eye
For teaching and practicing Retinoscopy and Ophthalmoscopy.
1933 - Ophthalmoscope (May)
1933 - Stereoscope
For visual training.
1934 - Ophthalmometer
Measure radius of curvature of cornea.
1935 - Ophthalmograph
Photographically records every movement made by the eyes while reading.
1935 - Stereo - Compimeter
records every movement made by the eyes while reading.
1935 - Acquired Spencer Lens Company
Leading manufacturer of microscopes, leading AO into precision optics, education field and medical instrumentation, etc.
More AO /
Spencer lens info:
More about AO Microscopes...
Download AO Spencer Microscope Brochure
1937 - Synoptophone
training the fusion ?
1937 - Metronoscope
Controlled reading conditions.
1938 - Adaptometer (Feldman)
presence of night blindness.
1940 - After Image Tester
1940 - Color Test (Holmgrew)
Colored worsted yarns
1940 - Space Eikonometer
To test for anisokonia
1940 - Lamp - Hague Cataract
For detecting & identifying ocular anomalies
1941 - Project-O-Chart
Projects test characters of proper size for different distances.
1943 - R&D
Major efforts were devoted to develop new military optical products.
1) Navy - A simple aircraft training gunsight.
2) Army - A
portable field optical unit.
1943 - Tonometer (Gradle-Schiotz)
Checking innerocular pressure.
1945 - Tachistoscope (Root Nearpoint)
Reading rate training instrument.
1945 - Lamp, Operating
Used for examinations & operative proceedings.
1948 - Stereo - Disparator (Renshaw)
Visual training instrument.
1950 - AO Acquired Wottring Instrument Co. of Ohio
Wallter Drill with his donation to the Optical Heritage Museum of early 1950s AO - Wottring Troposcope
1950 - Rotoscope
1951 - Walraven Bar Separator
Home or Office
1953 - T. V. Trainer
1953 - Color Test H.R.R. Pseudorsocromatic
classifying, and estimating the degree of defective color
1954 - Screening Perimeter
1955 - Mass Vision Test
1955 - Projection Magnifier
For sub-normal vision readings.
1956 - AO
1957 - Acquired J. W. Fecker, Inc.
Leading manufacturer of optical astronomical instruments.
1958 - Acquired Hanau Engineering, Inc. of Buffalo, NY
1958 - Radiuscope
Measure & examine hard contact lenses.
1959 - Surgical Microscope
1959 - Noyori Hand Fundus Camera
1961 - Sold Hanau Engineering Co.
1962 - Acquired Arclier Manufacturing Co. of Rochester
1963 - Slit Lamp
Examination with high illumination and high magnification.
1963- AO medical Division starts in Chelsea MA, moves to Bedford MA in 1966
1964 - Keene Plant was transferred from Instrument Division to Space-Defense Div.
They were currently producing infrared system range finder optics and complex optical systems for the Falcon, TOW, and Shilleleagh missiles.
1965 - Laser, Photo-Coagulator
1965 - Expanded Keene Plant by 30%.
1966 - A new Fiber Optics Plant was built in Southbridge.
Face Plates, data processing control components, Fibroscopes, light guides.
1966 - Additional facilities to Keen Plant.
This facility is now a completely integrated unit capable of doing development engineering, production engineering, and quality manufacturing of electro-optics and mechanical instrumentation.
1966 - Ophthalmoscope, Monocular
1967 - Warner-Lambert acquired American Optical.
1968 - Sold Fecker Division.
1972 - Contact Lens Center
Examining and fitting hard contact lenses.
1972 - Non-Contact Tonometer
~1975 Model NCT donated by Reichert to the Optical Heritage Museum (July 2009)
1978 - SR III Subjective Refractor
1980 - SR IV Subjective Refractor
1981 - The AO Scientific Instrument Group
Scientific Instruments, Ophthalmic Instruments, Fiber Optics was removed from American Optical and assigned to Warner-Lambert Health Technologies Group.
Instruments is what was once AO Scientific Instruments
Update 2012: Reichert acquired by Ametek:
2002 Interview on his Non Contact Tonometer Invention
(provided by David Taylor)
Download American Optical 1945 publication - Three American Microscope Builders
AO History Main Page