Born in 1854, OSA Honorary Member Edward Bausch
spent many childhood hours helping out in the family’s optical supply business. One of his first jobs was carrying hot rubber from his mother’s kitchen to his father’s shed so that the elder Bausch could produce eyeglass frames. After experimenting with different ways to create the frames, John Jacob Bausch developed a hand-press to stamp out the new frames from thin pieces of rubber.
As the market for rubberized frames grew, the family business grew and the young Bausch’s interests in optics began to take shape. At 14, he designed a simple microscope. When it came time for college, Bausch earned a scholarship to Cornell University to study engineering. After graduating he returned to Bausch & Lomb and took on a more prominent role. As the business grew, he helped design a new factory and suggested that the company expand their offerings to include microscopes. To oversee the new venture Bausch hired Ernst Gundlach, a well-known lens designer. The new Bausch & Lomb instruments won numerous awards and provided a solid foundation for the company in an emerging business area.
When Gundlach left the company, Bausch took over the microscope division and continued to experiment with microscope design. He secured his first patent on a trichnoscope, a microscope designed to detect contaminated meat. He was also instrumental in promoting the use of standard parts so that microscopes remained affordable to a range of users from researchers to students. As he reminisced once about his career in optics, he said that the microscope was perhaps the single most important aid in understanding and preventing disease.
Bausch used his knowledge of the human eye to invent a new type of camera shutter. His patented “iris diaphragm shutter,” based on the reaction of the eye's iris to the light, was a great help to photographers who experimented with rapid exposures and other developing photographic techniques. He also supplied the lens for the first Kodak camera in 1888.
On a trip to Germany, Bausch met representatives from the Zeiss Optical Company and as a result, Bausch & Lomb began manufacturing and selling Zeiss photographic lenses in America. A smart businessman, Bausch offered customers a product that combined the iris diaphragm shutter with Zeiss’s new anastigmat lens that removed blurriness from the edges of pictures. This partnering led to a number of new imaging products. Just before the turn of the century, Bausch was named vice president of Bausch & Lomb, which then asserted its dominance as an optical supplier offering microscopes, telescopes, and binoculars.
When his father died in 1926, Bausch took over as president of the company. For the next nine years he guided product development for the military as well as refinements in the company’s civilian products. In 1933, he was named an Honorary Member of the Optical Society in recognition of his preeminent service in the advancement of optics. In 1935, Bausch became the company’s first chairman of the board.
Bausch died in 1944.
Photo Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection