Don Schultz's CR39 lens takes Adelaide's SOLA company worldwide and goes to the Moon in 1969

SOLA lightweight CR39 eye lens were worn Walter Shirra, commander of the Apollo 7 spacecraft, and by the first astronauts on the Moon in 1969.

The first astronauts on the Moon in 1969 wore the lightweight eye lens developed by Don Schultz for Adelaide-born SOLA International that had manufacturing plants in 11 countries and employed 6,000 people by 1987.

SOLA was the legacy of Schultz’s intellect and inventiveness in the instrument construction department of South Australian optometry firm Laubman & Pank that Schultz ran with David Pank from 1947.

Among a raft of his innovations, Schultz’s big break was his interest in CR39 resin and applying it to plastic lightweight eye lens that Laubman & Pank had made for many years. These lenses were hard to polish accurately and easily scratched.

Schultz envisaged casting lenses from CR39 by creating a cavity between two polished glass moulds separated by a plastic spacer, and pouring CR39 into the cavity and polymerizing it. Schultz approached his colleagues at Adelaide University (where he lectured in optics), who helped develop isopropyl peroxy percarbonate, used for the next 20 years to make several hundreds of millions of lenses at a new company SOLA International.

Before the first lens were produced, Schultz overcame complex technical problems with realms of seven-figure hand-written calculations. A trip to Europe and UK in 1959 convinced Schultz the lens were commercially viable and the subsidiary SOLA (Scientific Optical Laboratories of Australia) was born with a plant at Black Forest, later moving to bigger premises at Lonsdale, south of Adelaide.

Schultz, whose interest was always useful design over management and sales (David Pank's strength), worked on side projects such as on plastic fibre optics, fully-cast CR39 spectacle-mounted Galilean telescopes and a periscope device for pest control workers. SOLA (later SOLA International) was first in the world to make commercial helium-neon lasers.

One of Schultz’s best-known achievements (with Rod Watkins) was the Schultz-Crock ophthalmoscope, selling thousands around the world over 35 years.

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Don Schultz's CR39 lens takes Adelaide's SOLA to the Moon and global takeover orbit in 1979

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Don Schultz's academic, wartime research adds to Adelaide's Laubman & Pank lead in optometry

Don Schultz, nephew of Carl Laubman, added to the already-impressive innovative record of his uncle’s Adelaide optometry practice Laubman & Pank. Between 1919 and 1928, Laubman & Pank had designed, patented and built lens grinding machinery, a mobile optometry consulting room (the perspectoscope), an instrument for measuring visual reaction times and a production process for the then-revolutionary solid one-piece bifocal lenses. Previously, bifocals had been made as two separate lenses cemented together. Laubman & Pank also introduced making artificial eyes to their practice. After Schultz was indentured as a teenager to the firm’s enthusiastic and inventive drive, he was one of the first graduates in 1929 from Adelaide University’s optometry course (possibly the first in the British empire). Two years later, aged 21, Schultz was chosen as the course’s principal lecturer (for the next 24 years). Schultz was registered as an optometrist in 1930 but his interest lay more in lens and instrument design. With World War II, an optical munitions panel was formed in 1940 to coordinate efforts around Australia and Schultz was coopted to work under Adelaide University physics professor Kerr Grant at the Weapons Research Establishment in Salisbury, north of Adelaide. At war's end, the panel had developed and made 19 optical instruments, including submarine and tank periscopes, range finders and aircraft glide slope indicators; produced six types of optical glass. Schultz worked on many of these projects and he transferred several of them to Laubman & Pank practice.

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