According to the Navitar website, “1955: World’s first mass-produced aspheric lens element used in the Elgeet Golden Navitar 12mm f/1.2 wide angle lens developed for 16mm movie cameras. [The asphere is the last optical element in the lens.(1)]. I suspect it depends on the definition of “mass-produced” since we have this mass-produced asphere from the 1940’s: RCA Projection Televisions. Given the broad definition of “asphere,” I’m sure that there are other examples that came earlier.
According to Dr. Rudolf Kingslake, “The Elgeet Optical Company was founded by three young men who had been boyhood friends: Mortimer A. London, then a lens inspector at Kodak, with David L. Goldstein and Peter Terbuska of Ilex. (The firm’s name is an acronym of L, G. and T). In 1946 they began by leasing some machine tools to make lens-polishing machinery, and with this they set up shop in an Atlantic Avenue loft (Rochester, NY), where they did all their own lens manufacture, packaging, and selling.
By 1952 the firm had grown sufficiently to enable them to purchase a former clothing plant at 838 Smith Street (Rochester, NY). At that time Goldstein was president, Terbuska was secretary, and London treasurer. The company prospered and with nearly 300 employees they manufactured thousands of lenses for small movie cameras and many other applications.
London left in 1960, and in 1962 the firm acquired ownership of the ancient establishment of Steinheil in Munich, but they soon sold this, I believe to Lear Siegler. In 1964 there were difficulties at stock-holder’s meetings, and the firm was reorganized with Alfred Watson as president. Two years later the assets of the company were acquired by MATI (Management and Technology Inc.), who acquired Turner Bellows at the same time. MATI survived only until 1969, when they disappeared. Goldstein purchased the remaining assets of the former Gundlach Manufacturing Company in Fairport (NY) and reorganized it under the name “Dynamic Optics Incorporated,” but this also ceased operations in 1972.”
- P.A. Merigold, “Aspheric Optical Systems,” unknown reference (CIA?).