American Optical History
AO's Ophthalmic Lens Designers

Read excerpts from Tim Tillyer's book on his Grandfather "Doc"

Dr. E.D.Tillyer- "DOC"
(Internet link to Tim Tillyers Biography of his Grandfather)

Summary of Doc Tillyers AO patents as listed in Tim Tillyers book
June 29, 2011 Rev pdf file

"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 


Link to 1982 Southbridge News Article on AO Employees and their recollections of "DOC"

1953 Article on Doc Tillyer Medal
(courtesy of Jacob Edwards Library)

 Doc Tillyer Article in Nov 04 Optics and Photonics News

Doc's 70th  Birthday card -Courtesy of Tim Tillyer who writes:

 Here is a picture of a "birthday card" I have that was given to Doc on his 70th birthday party.  Actually it is a pen and ink drawing by B. J. BRADEEN and is about 15 x 12 and it is signed by 34 of Doc's co-workers.  These signatures include J.J. STEVENSON, Bill HERMAN, Sam T. SHEARD, Harry CRANDON, Ben GROSVONOS (?), Harold GOULD, Roger WADSWORTH, John COWARD (?), Larry LITCHFIELD, Louis ROWE, Bessie KRALY, Ed MOON, Win DRORELL, Bob HAYNES, A. Estelle GLANCY, Arlene RAYNER, Grace BULL, Mary J. QUINT, Adele TILLER(?), Henry FERNALD, Wes REED, Don WHITNEY, Art BAILEY, Lon EDMO...(?), Ray MOULTON, Wm. H. REVOIR, Lloyd W. GOOD..N(?),> Lee UPTON, Lenny MALSER, Harold R. MOULTON, Bryon J. ZIEGLER, Kathy SCANLON, Daniel P. BERNHEIM, Arthur J. DUPREE, Sr.

Here are two letters from Don Whitney that were sent to Tim Tillyer when he researched the Internet article on his grandfather "DOC":

Don Whitney's Sept 9, 1997 letter to Tim Tillyer on Doc & Dr. Estelle Glancy

Don Whitney's Sept 19 letter to Tim Tillyer on Doc

Pre 1916 E.D.Tillyer U.S.Naval Observatory article on the Clock Vault (non ophthalmic)

PDF of this page from the AO News- Aug 24, 1945

May 2009 Lensometer Display (courtesy of the Optical Heritage Museum)
at the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center

Dr. Estelle Glancy
Dr. Glancy was a mathematician worked closely with Doc Tillyer on numerous AO lens designs, and was responsible for performing the many complex mathematical calculations involved in ophthalmic optics. Shown below is evidence of her working with Doc date back in 1921, where Dr. Tillyer has signed off his approval Dr. Glancy's calculations.


For years, she and Doc Tillyer worked together on complex lens calculations and designs. Click here for more on Dr. Glancy.

Pitt H. Herbert (25 years at AO prior to 1924 when he left for B&L Lens Design Added 2-Feb-12
1957 Optical Journal Obit courtesy of Diane Matuck

Pitt was recently added to the Optical Heritage Museum Hall of Fame

Download pdf of obit

John K. Davis - In memory of
John Davis worked at AO from 1938 thru 1976. He assume Dr. Glancy's responsibilites in the area of lens design at AO, when she retired in 1948. John hired my Father Donald Whitney (see below). John retired from AO in 1975, and  later worked at Gentex Optics from the late 1970s until the end of 2000. John is a world famous lens design and Industry Standards expert. Click here for a recent photo taken at the June 12 Reunion at Roms (John is standing).

In the 1961 photo above, Doc Tillyer and  Dr. Estelle Glancy are shaking hands and John Davis is wearing the bowtie.

An unusual photo includes 3 AO Lens designers (Center - John Davis, Second from right - Henry Fernald, Right - Don Whitney)
Photo courtesy of John Davis ~ 1950
Also pictured Marcel Benjamin (L) and Allen Jewell

Henry Fernald
Henry was a mathematician, who performed laborious ray tracing and other lens calculations. While today, a computer takes seconds to do this work, I know it took days to do such a calculations. Henry and my father Don Whitney worked together making similar calculations in order to error check such difficult calculations. I have a number of books of Henry's, where these calculations can be seen.  As a result, Henry became a family friend, and I recall his visits to our house.

Don Whitney
Don Whitney joined American Optical in 1947 as an apprentice in Lens Design. Click here to read about his recollections of that period. Don later managed the AOLITE plastic lens casting operation, and was responsible for the design of the Fulvue Cataract aspheric Lens. He "retired from AO in 1983, but worked from then until 1993 consulting for AO. During that period, I had the unique experience of working with Don (my father) on lens design issues. Don Whitney's 1998 Obitituary in Vision Monday. To see a rare photo of  John Davis (center), Henry Fernald (right of center) and Don Whitney (right), click here. This photo was provided courtesy of John Davis and was a social gathering in around 1950. Also pictured are Marcel Benjamin and Alan Jewell, and all were AO Employees at that time.

Click here for a collection of Technical Papers by Don Whitney on ophthalmic optics

ISO TC172 1979 Deliberations (Don Whitney L and Tom Loomis R)

Dave LaMarre

ISO TC172 1979 Deliberations (Dave Lamarre)-
Don, Dave and Tom represented the US

1979 - Dick Whitney (L) and Dave LaMarre (R)

During the 1980's, I worked closely with Dave on a number of ophthalmic and military lens designs, as well as on Standards issues. During that late 1980's, Dave, Don and I worked on design software for aspheric lens surfaces. Dave also designed a number of specialized military polycarbonate lens designs. One included a 20 Diopter curve plano and Rx polycarbonate gas mask lens for Apache Helicopter pilots. Looking at these today, they certainly were an achievement!

Click here for more on Dave

Dr. John Winthrop
Dr. Winthrop joined American Optical in 1967, and has designed all of AO's Progressive lenses. His latest AO b'Active lens was recently released, and he continues to work on new lens designs. His Progressive lens design achievements include a very impressive list of highly successful Progressive lenses:

AO Progressive Lens / Date of introduction to market

Ultravue - 1978 (Global release)
Truvision - 1981

Truvision OMNI -1988

Truvision Technica (Task specific computer lens) - 1990

AO Pro 15 - 1992

AO Pro 16

AO Force 55 - 1996

AO Compact - 1998

AO b' Active - 2000

AO Pro Easy - 2003

Compact Ultra - 2007 (Under Sola / CZV name)

Youtube 1987 design presentations of Dr. Winthrops covering:

Truvision / Pal Designs :


Added April 19, 2012

John Winthrop Meeting room door- Fougeres,France

Richard Whitney

I hesitiate to add my name to the above list, as my design skills are not in the same league as the above. The AO 55 and Aspherlite Aspheric Single vision lens series are two of my design accomplishments. They are Aspheric Single Vision designs.  John and I also have a patent for "Inside Out" aspheric Single Vision surfaces, which were employed in both the Aspherilite and AO 55 lens surfaces. Recently, I worked with Dr. Winthrop in implementing his AO Pro Easy PAL design in several materials.

Dave LaMarre, my father Don Whitney, and Dr. John Winthrop have been great teachers in this specialized field. It is only from the knowledge and design tools that their work has provided to me, that I have been able to make some contribution in AO's Lens Design area.

Dick Whitney Ophthalmic Lens info

To learn more about their contributions, check out the Optical Heritage Museum Website - AO Technical Documents

AO History

Southbridge Page

Whitney Home Page

Comments or questions? Contact Dick Whitney via email at