Bernard was one of the founders of Essilor Group in 1972
Bernard Maitenaz, the inventor of the Varilux progressive lens that improved the lives of millions of presbyopes globally and redefined an entire industry, recently passed away in his home city of Paris, at the age of 94.
Maitenaz’s pioneering work revolutionised the eyecare industry and transformed people’s lives: to date, more than 700 million Varilux lenses have been sold since 1959. His passion for optics, unwavering faith in its future and valuable contributions have made him one of the most iconic figures in the optical industry.
Bernard was one of the founders of Essilor Group in 1972. At the helm of the company between 1981 and 1991, he oversaw a period of major international growth, which turned Essilor into the world’s leading lens manufacturer. His commitment to Essilor continued well beyond his retirement, as Honorary Chairman of the Essilor Board of Directors, and a member of the Valoptec shareholders association.
In a personal tribute message, Paul du Saillant, Chairman and CEO, Essilor International, said, “The entire Essilor family is truly saddened by the loss of our honorary chairman, friend and colleague, Bernard Martinez. A true pioneer and inventor at heart, Bernard will also be remembered for the values with which he led Essilor between ‘81 and ‘91, and which he promoted within Valoptec throughout his 70-year career. Without him and the invention of the Varilux progressive lens, the optical industry and Essilor would not be what they are today. We owe Bernard enormously, and he will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come. On this sad day, our thoughts are with his family, sons and grandchildren.”
Expressing his grief, Raghavan NS, Country Manager, Essilor South Asia said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of our honorary Chairman, Bernard Maitenaz, an absolute legend. He invented the Varilux Progressive lenses which transformed the lives of millions of presbyopes across the globe and redefined and reshaped the optical industry. He will be a source of inspiration for generations to come.”
Before progressive lenses, presbyopia was generally corrected with bifocal lenses, an invention from Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century. Frustrated with his father’s bifocals, Bernard, who was then a 33-year-old engineer at La Société des Lunetiers in 1959, took on the task of creating a lens that would provide presbyopes with comfortable vision at any distance.
Maitenaz graduated with degrees in engineering from both Arts et Métiers in 1946 and Ecole Supérieure d’Optique in 1947.