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History of the optician profession

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In a previous report, we told the history of optics in general. From antiquity to renaissance , then to modern times , we have recounted the beginnings of ophthalmology , public vision health and technological advances that could one day restore sight to the blind. In the midst of scientific research and theories on the behavior of light, the profession of optician was truly born. Return on the history of the profession since its regulation.

History of the profession of optician: an official birth that went almost unnoticed.


June 5, 1944. While we have been manufacturing and selling optical frames for quite some time, it is on this day that the constituting law of the profession of optician-eyewear. But, on that date, the eyes of the world were on France for other obvious reasons.

In any event, the Vichy government wishes to protect the public against the "harmful practices of incompetent opticians." "

In order to carry out the profession of optician-eyewear , it becomes necessary to obtain a diploma. The latter became in 1954 the certificate of superior technician optics-eyewear (BTS OL).

However, the term optician has existed for centuries. It was first mentioned in the so-called “Banner Ordinance” in June 1467.

It took another three centuries (in 1762) for this term to be accepted in the dictionary of the French Academy. An optician was then defined as "He who knows, who teaches, who is versed in optics . "


A historic law for a profession that must face impostors

Why this regulation? Simply because at the beginning of the 20th century, oculists began to notice and worry about the multiplication of patient victims developing eye lesions following their visit to obscure opticians. "

Moreover, certain acts of fraud on the part of eyewear merchants practicing hawking are also widely denounced.

But there It is currently difficult to establish that this 1944 law is really the first intended to regulate the profession.

In fact, in 1911, the Central Union of retail opticians and the French oculists' union jointly submitted a first draft regulation. It was a question of adding to the law of 1892 on the practice of medicine adjustments making it possible to regulate not only the sale of optical products , but also the conditions for obtaining the title of optician.


The 1944 law, in charge of putting an end to malicious acts having serious consequences on public health , serves above all to determine what an optician cannot do.

Hawking is therefore prohibited, as is the issue of prescription glasses without a prescription to persons under the age of 16.

In 1962, the law will be supplemented by a decree. This highlights a list of practices that can only be performed by doctors, such as "the handling of devices used to determine ocular refraction ." "

During the 1960s, commercial signs began to spread everywhere. The “modern” and rather standardized profession of optician was born.

A turning point in the business: the appearance of the progressive lens

In May 1959, an innovation will profoundly change the approach and history of the profession of optician : the creation of the Varilux lens , the first progressive lens.

This lens geometry corrects presbyopia and the power to compensate for all vision defects.

You can now switch from one viewing distance to another smoothly.

In 1972, Varilux II was created. progressive lens a standard in optical correction . This innovation will force the profession to reorganize, to professionalize, to greatly establish and measure the needs of customers.


Now, and more and more, many criteria are taken into account to personalize customer service . We are witnessing a complete evolution of the fields of competence . The morphology, lifestyle and working conditions of clients are taken into account in order to offer a fully adequate service.

A redesigned health system

In 2016, the Minister of Social Affairs and Health Marisol Touraine carried her project known as “modernization of the health system. "

The decrees issued in accordance with this law will define the optician-eyewear as a full-fledged health professional , with the support of a so-called multidisciplinary team.

Earlier, in 2013, the 1962 decree was repealed and refraction was already made compulsory, whether for a renewal or a modification of a prescription. It is now possible to adapt the prescription following an eye exam .

Faced with digital technology, a future that is still uncertain

The emergence of digital and new digital technologies also has a strong impact on the profession of optician.

Because if the latter has become positioned as a technical and commercial professional, he must adapt to a digital lifestyle.


The arrival of the smartphone has completely changed the way we behave. Our movements, our ways of traveling, of working and even of eating ourselves are no longer the same.

There is no doubt that a reversal is difficult to imagine. Our eyes are at risk of constant testing by devices using digital technology . Faced with this inevitable reality, the optician profession will have to face a demand capable of evolving. But also in the constant search for technical and technological innovations intended to make good visual health a reality.

Of course, like the arrival of the progressive lens , these innovations, some of which are already underway, will change not only the profession of optician but also the entire optical sector .

It is therefore inevitably with a certain degree of excitement that we can look to the future. If there will always be a certain concern in the face of uncertainty, we also tell ourselves that this profession has always known how to grow and evolve in the face of the vagaries of our societies , as its history proves.

[ =] Sources: Essentiel de Optique, A. Chautard