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Bausch & Lomb is an Americanmarker company based in Rochester, New Yorkmarker, is one of the world's leading suppliers of eye health products, such as contact lenses and lens care products today. In addition to this main activity, in recent years the area of medical technology (medicines, implant for eye diseases) has been developed. Bausch & Lomb became well known because of its famous Ray-Ban brand of sunglasses, which was sold in 1999 to the Italian Luxottica Group. Today, the company employs about 13,000 people in 36 countries. The company was founded in 1853 by two Germans, John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb.

Company history

Early years

Bausch & Lomb was founded in 1853 by two German immigrants, John Jacob Bausch and Henry C. Lomb in Rochester, New York. Jacob Bausch was a trained optician and in Henry Lomb, he found the financier and partner he needed for a small but ambitious workshop producing monocles. Initially in 1861, the company manufactured Vulcanite rubber eyeglass frames and other precision vision products.

Early growth of the company

During the American Civil War, the blockade caused the price of gold and European horn to rise dramatically. This resulted in a growing demand for the Bausch & Lomb spectacles made from Vulcanite.

Bausch & Lomb Convertible Balopticon (projector)
In 1876, the company began manufacturing microscopes. Later that year, the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company won a distinction at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The company also produced photographic lenses (1883), spectacle lenses (1889), microtomes (1890), binoculars and telescopes (1893). From 1892 in cooperation with Zeiss in Germany, the company produced optical lenses. In this manner, at the end of the 19th century, the product range included eyeglasses, microscopes and binoculars, as well as projector, camera lenses and camera diaphragms.

Expansion of production at the beginning of the 20th century

With the growth of the US armed forces under President Theodore Roosevelt and the build up of the naval fleet, Bausch & Lomb received the commission, through the supplier Saegmuller, to manufacture high-precision lenses for optical measurement and founded a joint venture with Saegmuller. At the same time as this new expansion, the significance of scientific research was realized, and a research department with five members was started to develop new products and improve old ones. A new alliance with the Zeiss company in Germany ensured competitive advantages for the three participants, Bausch & Lomb, Saegmuller and Zeiss, in terms of patent use and opening new markets. In 1902, William Bausch, the son of the founder, developed a process to create the desired lens shape directly by casting molten glass. Previously, the glass parts for the lenses had to be separated, ground and polished in a complicated process, so this brought enormous savings in time and materials.

The company produced the first optical quality glass in America during the early to mid 1900s. By the year 1903 the company began manufacturing microscopes, binoculars, and camera shutters.

The First and Second World Wars

The further development of the firm was affected by political events. Because of the World Wars and the consequent need for optical instruments such as field glasses, target finders, camera lenses, binocular telescopes, searchlight mirrors, torpedo tube sights and periscopes, the product range could be considerably broadened. During this period, military products represented 70 % of total production. One of the best-known developments in this period was the world-famous Ray-Ban brand sunglasses, developed for pilots in 1926.

Period after 1945

After the Second World War, the photography and eyeglass sectors were strengthened and production in these sectors, at least in part, was completely restructured. In addition, production facilities were opened in Canadamarker, Brazilmarker and Argentinamarker.

At a time when the cinema was being superseded by television, Bausch & Lomb managed a breakthrough with their CinemaScope lens. For the first time, the new lens made the "wide screen" effect possible, enabling cinemas to double screen width and popularize the cinema once again.

After three years of development work, two years for the medical approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and an investment of three million USD, Bausch & Lomb brought the first contact lenses made of Poly-HEMA on the market in 1971. In contrast to the contact lenses available up to that time, made of glass and Lucite (acrylic glass) [10481], the new lenses were softer and considerably more pleasant to wear. Thereafter, the name "Soflens" became a brand name known world-wide.

A massive restructuring of the company began in the mid-80s. What had been the core divisions, the production of lenses for various purposes, were sold off. The sunglasses division was continued, since Ray-Ban glasses kept selling very well due to effective product placement. By the planned acquisition of other firms, such as Polymer Technology Corporation and Dr. Mann Pharma, existing business areas, for example contact lens production, were strengthened and new ones were opened up. Finally in 1997, as a result of a series of company acquisitions, the division for the production of surgical products was established.

The company also produced the lenses for cameras which captured the first satellite images of the Moon.

Company developments in recent years

Since then, Bausch & Lomb has developed into a globally-operating company which is among the market leaders in contact lens production. The company headquarters is still in Rochester. From here, research and process development, as well as production plants all over the world, are coordinated. Today, about 13,000 employees in 36 countries work for the firm. Total turnover for the year 2006 was estimated at 2.29 billion USD. The company’s competitors in the international health-care services market are Johnson & Johnsonmarker, Alcon, Allergan, MSD-Chibret and Ciba Vision (Novartis). The development of new products is decisive and is an on-going process in which development teams for research, development and engineering work closely together. The various team members come from the manufacturing, technical, packaging, marketing, quality assurance and legal departments.

A new corporate headquarters was constructed in Rochester in 1995.

Chief executives

Chief executives
Name Title Tenure
John Jacob Bausch President 1885 – 1926
Edward Bausch President 1926 – 1935
M. Herbert Eisenhart President 1935 – December 1950
Joseph F. Taylor President January 1950 – November 1954
Carl S. Hallauer President November 1954 – March 1959
William W. McQuilkin President March 1959 – May 1971
Jack D. Harby President May 1971 –
Daniel G. Schuman CEO – April 1981
Daniel E. Gill CEO April 1981 – December 1995
William H. Waltrip CEO (acting) December 1995 – 1996
William M. Carpenter CEO 1996 – November 2001
Ronald L. Zarrella CEO November 2001 – January 2008
Gerald M. Ostrov CEO January 2008 – present

Business areas

Basically, the business areas are divided into three large divisions:
  • Vision Care: contact lenses and eye-care products
  • Pharmaceuticals: medicines for various eye diseases and irritations
  • Surgery: aids and implants

Although in the last few years several business areas in the Vision Care division have been developed in the framework of product diversification, the manufacture of contact lenses still accounted for 28 % of turnover in 2001 and was thus its main business activity. Besides the simplest “SofLens One Day“ soft contact lens range, which have to be changed every day, the product assortment also includes higher quality lenses, such as the "SofLens Comfort" or "Seequence" lenses which can be changed after two weeks. The "SofLens66 Toric" were specially designed for people with astigmatism. Lenses from the "Boston" range have a higher oxygen permeability and thus are more suited for people with sensitive or dry eyes. The newest and most advanced lens range is called "PureVision". These lenses are so oxygen-permeable that they can remain in the eye up to 30 days without being taken out at night. The second largest business, at 25 %, is the manufacture of lens-care products. As well as simple combination cleaning and disinfectant solutions for both soft and hard lenses, pH neutral solutions are available for people with particularly sensitive eyes.

The Pharmaceuticals division manufactures pharmaceutical eye products, which account for 21 % of turnover. This range covers prescription medicines for eye irritation, allergic reactions or high eye pressure. A further breakthrough is expected from the new Envision TD product range. This represents a new process for the precisely located dispensing of active substances to the eye. This is achieved by medical implants behind the eye. Due to the body’s absorption process, the implant slowly decomposes and in so doing releases the desired active substance directly to the eye over a long period. Additionally, vitamins can be dispensed to counteract bacterial infection and allergic reactions, thus reducing loss of vision with advancing age. The development of this division was speeded up by take-overs of other firms.

The Surgicals division is divided into Refractive Surgery with 8 % of turnover and Cataract Vitreotinal Surgery with 18 %. The latter division is concerned with products for operations on glaucoma and cataracts and on the cornea, as well as implantable, interocular lenses. The Refractive Surgery division comprises mainly medical analysis devices and lasers required for eye surgery. In order to strengthen this division, the competing, market-leader companies Storz and Chiron were acquired.

Divestiture and sale

In 1999, Bausch & Lomb sold its high-end sunglasses division, Ray-Ban, which it had founded in 1937, to Luxottica.

In May 2007, the company announced plans to be acquired by Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm based in New York Citymarker. Advanced Medical Optics also announced an interest in the company. In August 2007, B & L terminated talks with Advanced Medical Optics, and completed its merger with Warburg Pincus in October 2007.

Recent events


Bausch & Lomb was in a lawsuit with Novartis which claimed to have patents on a Bausch & Lomb product called PureVision. On June 26, 2002, a federal judge ruled that Bausch & Lomb did infringe on Ciba Vision (a subsidiary of Novartis) patents.

On July 2, 2004, the company announced that it had licensed the intellectual property of Novartis. Bausch & Lomb will pay the Ciba Vision unit of Novartis a royalty on net U.S. sales of its PureVision brand contact lenses until 2014 and on net sales outside the U.S. until 2016.


On April 11, 2006, Bausch & Lomb stopped shipments of its ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced there was a high correlation between use of the product and cases of suspected fungal keratitis. The Centers for Disease Control found that "nearly all of the company's ReNu with MoistureLoc eye care products were linked to severe fungal eye infections". Two class action lawsuits have been filed against Bausch & Lomb in relation to the eye fungus problems.


Bausch & Lomb received a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign starting in 2003, the second year of the report.


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