Searching for Tomorrow’s Ben Franklins


Searching for Tomorrow’s Ben Franklins

Last month, people all over America celebrated the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, statesman, patriot and lens technology innovator. As nearly everyone knows, Franklin famously invented the bifocal lens.

Franklin reportedly had poor vision and needed glasses to read. He got tired of constantly taking them off and putting them back on, so he figured out a way to make glasses that let him see both near and far. He had two pairs of spectacles cut in half and put half of each lens into a single frame—a lens on top for distant viewing and a lens with more plus power on the bottom for reading.

If Franklin were to time travel to 2006, he’d see the spirit of optical innovation is alive and well. I bet if he thumbed through this month’s L&T he would marvel at the wealth of new lens products that are featured. If Franklin read my Eye Opener interview with Younger Optics’ David Rips, he would learn about Younger’s new Drivewear lens, the first photochromic lens that works well in a car. Turning to the New Products section, Franklin could find out about LifeRx, a rapid-acting, durable photochromic from Vision-Ease. Best of all, Franklin could see the new Varilux Physio lens, the first wavefront optimized progressive and a modern day descendent of his bifocal.

It’s great to know Franklin’s restlessly creative, entrepreneurial spirit lives on in others. But who will invent the next important lens technology? Who will be tomorrow’s Franklins?

My guess is they will be people who want to solve a practical, everyday vision problem, a problem they are experiencing firsthand, just like Franklin did. I wonder what problems they will focus their attentions on.

Andrew Karp, akarp@jobson.com