Inventor of progressive lens Varilux dies at 94

Essilor mourns the death of Bernard Maitenaz

Essilor - Bernard Maitenaz 1985 mit dem Varilux-Gleitsichtglas
Bernard Maitenaz in 1985 with the Varilux progressive lens he developed (Image: Essilor)

Lens manufacturer Essilor mourns the death of Bernard Maitenaz, the inventor of the Varilux progressive lens that redefined vision for presbyopes worldwide. He has now passed away in his hometown of Paris at the age of 94.

Bernard Maitenaz pioneered progressive lenses and changed the lives of many presbyopes: To date, more than 700 million Varilux lenses have been sold since 1959. His passion for optics, his unwavering belief in its future and his valuable contributions have made him one of the most iconic figures in the optical industry.


Maitenaz was one of the founders of the Essilor Group in 1972 and headed the company from 1981 to 1991, leading a period of great international growth. His commitment to Essilor continued well beyond his retirement, as Honorary Chairman of the Essilor Board of Directors and as a founding member of the Valoptec shareholders’ association.

Worldwide recognition for Essilor pioneer

Bernard Maitenaz completed his engineering studies at both Arts et Métiers in 1946 and Ecole Supérieure d’Optique in 1947. Frustrated with his father’s bifocal lenses and determined to improve his father’s life by improving his vision, Maitenaz, then a 33-year-old engineer at La Société des Lunetiers in 1959, took on the task of developing a lens that would allow presbyopes to see comfortably at any distance.

For his enormous contribution to the field of vision, Bernard Maitenaz achieved significant renown in numerous areas of research and technology:

  • Maitenaz taught optical engineering at the Ecole Supérieure d’Optique in Paris. He was also an advisor for technical education at the Ministère de l’Education nationale and president of the Centre d’Enseignement et de Recherche in Paris.
  • He was a member of several supervisory boards, notably the Ecole Supérieure d’Optique for over 10 years and the Ecole National Supérieure des Arts et Métiers from 1990 to 1994. From 1992 to 2003, he was a board member of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and was a member of the Conseil pour les Applications de l’Académie des Sciences (CADAS).
  • Bernard Maitenaz has also received numerous awards for his contributions to optometry, including an Honorary Doctorate of Ophthalmology from the New England College of Optometry in Boston in 1988 and an Honoris Causa from the School of Optometry at the University of Montreal in 1993.
  • He was the 2014 recipient of the Apollo Award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Association of Optometrists, which honors individuals or organizations for special contributions to the visual well-being of the public.

“Without him and the invention of the Varilux progressive lens, the optical industry and Essilor would not be what they are today.” (Paul du Saillant)


A source of inspiration

In a personal tribute, Paul du Saillant, Chairman and CEO of Essilor International, said:

Essilor - Bernard Maitenaz - gestorben am 22 Februar 2021
Bernard Maitenaz died on February 22 at the age of 94 (Image: Essilor)

“The entire Essilor family is deeply saddened by the loss of our Honorary Chairman, friend and colleague Bernard Maitenaz. A true pioneer and inventor at heart, Bernard will also be remembered for the values with which he led Essilor between 1981 and 1991 and which he promoted during his more than 70-year career at Valoptec. Without him and the invention of the Varilux progressive lens, the optical industry and Essilor would not be what they are today. We have much to thank Bernard for, 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.”


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