Monday, January 12, 2009

One Man + Innovative Eyeglasses = A World of Difference

One of my reminders to myself for this year is to find a way to make a difference. I just read about a man who has quietly made a difference for tens of thousands of people around the world by giving them clear vision. (Washington Post story here.) Photo: Oxford University Site

Joshua Silver, an atomic physicist in Oxford, England, invented eyeglasses that can be adjusted on the spot to help either nearsighted or farsighted people see better. Admittedly ugly (think Woody Allen's worst), the glasses have round lenses that contain a thin sac. Hidden in the earpieces are plastic syringes filled with silicone oil and a pump to move the oil into the lenses. By turning a little dial on the earpiece, the wearer adds or subtracts the clear liquid until the focus is right. When the adjustment is right, the syringes are removed and the glasses are ready to go. Current cost? Just $19.

Silver's desire is to provide eyeglasses to more than a billion people with poor eyesight throughout the world. In many developing countries, few people have glasses because they don't have access to eye care professionals. And for those who can see an eye doctor, even fewer can afford glasses. Enter Joshua Silver's amazing glasses. So far, he has distributed some 30,000 pairs, and hopes to distribute a million pairs in India in the coming year.

The part I like best about this story is that a vision company offered to buy his technology years ago and dangled a "substantial" amount of money in front of him. But they would not assure him that they would use his patented technology to bring low-cost eyeglasses to the poor. He refused to sell.

There's a tailor in Ghana who couldn't work any more because he could not see to thread the needle on his sewing machine. He could not afford an optometrist or glasses. With Joshua Silver's glasses, he's seeing and sewing again.

Here's to Joshua Silver and his beautiful, ugly eyeglasses.

1 comment:

george said...

give dr. silver the peace prize!