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Optics Technicians


Humans have been using simple lenses for magnification for more than 1,000 years, and eyeglasses have been in use since the 14th century. More complex optical instruments, however, such as the microscope and telescope, were not developed until the 17th century. These first microscopes and telescopes were crude by modern standards, as the first lenses of moderately good quality for these instruments were not developed until the 19th century.

During the 19th century, many of the basic principles used for making the calculations necessary for lens design were expounded, first in a book by Karl Friedrich Gauss published in 1841 and later in other studies based on Gauss's work during the 1850s. These principles remained the basis for making the calculations needed for lens design until around 1960, when computer modeling became the predominant way to design lenses.

Up until the early part of the 20th century, mechanical engineers, physicists, and mathematicians handled engineering problems associated with the design of optical instruments. During World War I, however, because of the increasingly important applications of optical instruments, optical engineering emerged as a separate discipline, and today it is taught in a separate department in many universities.

And, in the same way, the optics technicians described in this article emerged as distinct from all other engineering and science technicians. They have their own instructional programs, their own professional societies, and their own licensing procedures.

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