AMERICAN OPTICAL CO. FACILITY – SOUTHBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
EFFECTIVE POWER 588 PHOROPTOR – 1927
ADDITIVE PHOROPTOR – 1934
590 PHOROPTOR – 1948
all images courtesy reichert technologies
Medical equipment for eye health diagnosis, in its comparatively early modern avatar, has existed in different forms for more than 250 years. This is thanks to pioneering ideas that have been developed continually and built upon.
Some prominent ones: Based on an optometer invented by William Porterfield in 1759, Dr Jules Badal developed his instrument in 1876. Then came the ski-optometer invented by Nathan Shigon, and the phoro-optometer developed by Henry DeZeng.
Today, with technological advancements, we have a whole range of advanced vision and eye testing instruments and equipment. These include visual field test equipment to measure the extent and the intensity of one’s visual field; slit lamp for a magnified, three-dimensional view of the eye; tonometer that measures the pressure inside of the eye; specular microscope that evaluates the health of the cells lining the inner most layer of the cornea; internal imaging camera takes pictures of the retina; eye scan that provides a 3D cross-section of the inside in microscopic resolution; advanced retinal camera; automated refractor; macular pigment optical density measurer; even infant vision tester for very young children; and of course the phoropter, a refracting instrument.
PHOROPTOR VRX – 2015
While the ‘phoropter’ can be referred to as a refracting instrument, the original, trademarked, patented name of ‘Phoroptor’ was granted a registered trademark by the United States Patent & Trademark Office on 10 January 1922 to coincide with its first model release. This article points to the distinction, particularly as it’s about the evolution of the original refracting instrument and at a time when Reichert Technologies is celebrating 100 years of the Phoroptor.
To go back to its origins: In 1915, Henry DeZeng, a New Jersey inventor, introduced the Model 570 Phoro-Optometer. Seven years later he released the No. 584, the first official Phoroptor refracting instrument.
American Optical Company, the predecessor to Reichert, acquired the DeZeng Standard in 1925 and contributed further to vision care with the Additive Effective Power 589 Phoroptor, released in 1934. This included the addition of the Jackson Cross Cylinder lenses, and the iconic question, “Better 1 or better 2?” The Ultramatic RX Master Phoroptor that came out in the 1960s introduced the shape and functionality commonly recognised today.
Phoroptor became the standard for every eye care professional as a means of providing accurate and efficient eye exams. The technology behind it however continued evolving. In 2003, Reichert released the patented, LED-based Illuminated Phoroptor model – practitioners could now see the measurement dials in the examination room kept dim for patients.
The Phoroptor VRx Digital Refraction System followed in 2015. Operated by a computerised controller and capable of interfacing directly with Electronic Medical Records (EMR), it can perform remote refractions via telehealth systems, which enables practitioners to see more patients in more places.
What started out as a spectacle shop, American Optical, founded by William Beecher in 1833, was incorporated as a company in 1869. The company made major contributions to the science of vision including the adoption of the dioptric system of lens power and its acceptance by the US Bureau of Standards. Its inventions include numerous industry standard products such as the first rimless spectacles, the manufacture of toric lenses used for correction of astigmatism, and the Lensometer, the first means to measure spectacle power.
American Optical became Reichert Ophthalmic in the 1980s. Reichert Technologies, a manufacturer of high-quality refraction devices, continues to be noted in the eye care sector as a company with innovation at its core.
Every Phoroptor has been designed and assembled in a state-of-the-art facility in Buffalo, New York, since the 1930s. The refractors are shipped out to many parts of the world from the United States.
PHOROPTOR VRX – 2015
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