“Optics has changed a lot in my lifetime and I don’t consider myself old just yet. My two daughters are at secondary school and I am the youngest of six and still have my parents with us to help me feel young. I met Sarah my wife while studying Optometry in Manchester in late 1980’s and we bought our own business in 1996 in Woodseats opposite KFC and in 2005 we took on another practice in Broomhill and moved up to Crosspool in 2011.
In Europe, the first glasses were made in 1284 in Italy and by the 15th century Venice Italy established a guild for crystal workers and standards for eyeglass lenses. Opticians in England can trace their heritage back to 17th century when on the 16th May 1629, the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers was incorporated by Royal Charter. That document is now preserved in the library in the Guildhall of London where I was lucky enough to dine when I represented the British Ophthalmic and Dispensing Students Association in 1989.
The 1980s was when the most change occurred in Optics. The first laser eye surgery took place, advertising was allowed and prices for spectacles could appear in shop windows. Supply of spectacles was derestricted meaning anyone could sell spectacles. It had to be to a prescription from an optometrist that was not more than two years old. Registered opticians only could supply to under 16s and those registered blind or partially sighted. Free NHS eye test was abolished and qualifications for fitting contact lenses were introduced. In the 1990’s Optometrists were allowed to refer directly to hospital previously we could only refer to a GP. Sunday trading for opticians was introduced.
Contact lenses can be traced back to the late 19th century but they were made from glass. In the 1940’s they started to use plastic and in 1970’s soft lenses and now new materials and designs are coming along every year. If you have been told that you can’t get contact lenses for your prescription the chances are that now you can. Lenses can be worn for thirty days at a time. Orthokeratology is when you wear contact lenses overnight so you don’t have to wear lenses or glasses the next day.
In case you are wondering what’s the difference between an optician and an optometrist, an optician is qualified to make and supply glasses and contact lenses but an optometrist (also known as an ophthalmic optician) is qualified to measure eyesight, prescribe corrective lenses and detect eye disease.”