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Seeing clearly for one dollar

A teacher has invented a pair of glasses that costs one dollar. It also enables Africans to earn their living making eyewear.

© Siemens Stiftung/Ein Dollar Brille e. V. - Glasses

GOOD PROSPECTS. Millions of people in Africa suffer from short- or long-sightedness, but many cannot afford glasses. That is why a German teacher called Martin Aufmuth in­vented a pair of spectacles that costs less than one dollar. These glasses have a light flexible frame made of pliable skin-friendly steel wire. The lenses are made of polycarbonate and compensate visual impairments from -6 to +6 dioptres. At the heart of the idea, alongside the glasses themselves, is a so-called bending machine that enables the frames to be produced anywhere in the world, since it requires no electricity and is so small that it fits inside a 30-centimetre box. Martin Aufmuth has also set up a company that offers men and women in Africa two-week intensive courses to train as “one-dollar glasses” opticians. They can then produce the spectacles and make their own living. Aufmuth received first prize, worth 50,000 euros, in the Siemens Foundation’s “empowering.people award” for his novel idea.