LOOKING BACK – SEPTEMBER 2012

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AVIATION GOGGLES FIND PRISM FOR THE FRONTLINES

One of the most serious disadvantages that fighter pilots experienced with their aviation goggles during
World War I was limited field of vision because only flat lenses were made during the time. Despite the fact that
curved lenses were soon developed after the War, these new goggle lenses also created issues for pilots—the main
problem being flyers developed air headaches from muscular imbalances of the eye when
wearing these new “wrap around goggle” designs.
It was during World War II when American Optical Co.’s (AO) Dr. E.D. Tillyer and Dr. Estelle Glancy noticed a solution. The two scientists discovered that curved lenses with prism could provide both eye comfort and visual efficiency.
The no-power lenses overcame prismatic imbalance caused by the steeply curved lenses and eliminated the muscular
imbalances, providing World War II fighter pilots with aviation goggles that comfortably curved to fit the face and improved optics. A 1951 ad depicting the goggle’s ability to eliminate the headaches is shown at left, which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and Scientific American magazine. This early prism design aspect from AO is the predecessor for many of the large face-form wrap eyewear seen today.

Courtesy of Dick Whitney, Curator,
Optical Heritage Museum, opticalheritagemuseum.org.

 

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