The Salus University community was saddened by the passing of a true visionary in the ophthalmic industry, Gérard Cottet. Those who work or have worked in the optometric profession are quite familiar with Essilor, the largest and one of the most trusted international ophthalmic optical companies in the world. Eye care providers and the patients they serve know the French company for its innovation and superior quality. However, as time passes, giants of the ophthalmic industry, responsible for the creation and innovation of new products, are often forgotten. Gérard Cottet was one of those giants. Bernard Maitenaz, a mechanical engineer with Société des Lunetiers, the French company that eventually became Essilor, designed the first progressive lens in 1959, known as the “Varilux” lens. However, Mr. Cottet was central to bringing this product to the mainstream market in the early ‘60s, first in Europe and then in the United States.
As one of the first optometrists in the United States to gain experience with the Varilux lens, Dr. Irving Bennett ‘44, was influential in relaying this important information. Dr. Bennett, a visionary in his own right, was so confident in the design of the new lens that he worked closely with Mr. Cottet and others to ensure the US ophthalmic industry was aware of the value of this lens to patients. In 1996, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO)
, which established Salus University in 2008, acknowledged Mr. Cottet’s contributions to the ophthalmic industry and the optometric profession by honoring him with the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The University also acknowledged Mr. Cottet in 1998 with the naming of the Gérard Cottet Library
Many Salus University students are quite familiar with industry giants, to name a few: Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and now Tim Cook. However, young ophthalmic practitioners should also be familiar with giants of the optometric industry and recognize the amazing products available to them because of the creativity and hard work of someone that came before and paved the way. Gérard Cottet will forever be remembered for his hard work and significant contributions to optometry and the ophthalmic industry as a whole and will be missed by many.