EssilorLuxottica mourns passing of Bernard Maitenaz, inventor of the first Varilux progressive lens
Charenton-le-Pont, France (February 22, 2021) – EssilorLuxottica is deeply saddened to announce that Bernard Maitenaz, the inventor of the Varilux progressive lens that improved the lives of millions of presbyopes globally and redefined an entire industry, has passed away in Paris, at the age of 94.
At this difficult time, Leonardo Del Vecchio, Hubert Sagnières, Francesco Milleri, Paul du Saillant and the entire EssilorLuxottica family’s thoughts are with Bernard Maitenaz’s family.
Bernard Maitenaz’s pioneering work revolutionized 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 as founding member of the Valoptec shareholders association.
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, and determined to improve his father’s life by improving his sight, 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.
Bernard Maitenaz graduated with degrees in engineering from both Arts et Métiers in 1946 and Ecole Supérieure d'Optique in 1947.