Resident’s Web site gains international
August 4, 2006 - Updated: 01:05 PM
Some people go through life wearing
rose-colored glasses. David Fleishman, a retired ophthalmologist,
would rather wear steel, round framed spectacles crafted circa 1770.
these lenses, he gazes back to the year 1286 when the first eye
glasses were probably invented near Pisa, Italy.
gazes across the centuries at vision artifacts reflecting the
science, art and culture of the people who used them.
looks at a future when he might photograph the wild collection of
glasses owned by Elton John.
in the comfortable study of his Sharon home at his indispensable
computer, he is on the lookout for optic treasures and their stories
for his Web site, "Antique Spectacles and Other Vision Aids."
building a puzzle and not a business," he said. "Therefore, I’m able
to get all the museums to appreciate the fact that they get free
publicity and recognition. All they have to do is share some
pictures with us."
Wall Street Journal featured Fleishman and his Web site on the front
page on April 6. More and more curators, collectors and historians
are taking notice. He even received a phone call recently from Dom
DiMaggio, the first baseball player to enter the major leagues
wearing eye glasses.
nonprofit, non-commercial Web site displays more than 2,300 images
and 37 slideshows in a virtual museum. Glasses worn by Hans
Christian Anderson, Franz Schubert, Thomas Jefferson, Beethoven, and
Robert E. Lee are featured.
are 405 worldwide institutions that have participated in the Web
site including the Vatican, the Louvre and the National Museum of
American History at the Smithsonian. More than 600 people have
contributed to the Web site since its inception three years ago.
Jacqueline Fleishman helps her husband by translating French text
and Tanya Schwartzman, a piano teacher at the Sharon Academy of
Music, translates Russian.
until five years ago, Fleishman was the chief of Ophthalmology at
Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton. Ironically, Dr. Fleishman’s
healthy vision waned as a result of an eyelid growth affecting his
cornea and a detached retina requiring an extended recuperation.
Later his visual problems were compounded by severe Carpal Tunnel
Syndrome in both hands.
difficulty near the end even holding instruments. Eye surgery is so
delicate. I had done 5,000 procedures or so during my 28 years as an
ophthalmologist," he said. "When I realized I couldn’t work, I went
through a little depression"
with an unexpected retirement, Fleishman set his sights on his
lifelong fascination. Drawing on his small collection of antique
spectacles, he wrote a paper based on information gleaned from the
newsletters of the Ocular Heritage Society and the Ophthalmic
Antiques International Collector’s Club.
intended to publish his paper "Eyeglasses through the Ages" in
ophthalmology and antiques journals. Fleishman’s son in Chicago
suggested starting a Web site as an alternative to print publishing.
problem: Fleishman lacked the computer background to manage the
volumes of pictures e-mailed to him from museums, art institutes and
libraries or those he photographed himself throughout the USA and
said, he only need to look within his neighborhood. Neighbor Lee
Berkowitz manages Web sites in Watertown at Ritop Trade School and
Rich’s Car Tunes.
began aiding Fleishman, and since then he said he’s been amazed at
Fleishman’s success, especially the day when the Wall Street Journal
article was published. The Web site received a million hits that
the people I’ve worked with, David is by far the most prepared,"
Berkowitz said. "He knows exactly what he wants and challenges me to
Fleishman asked Berkowitz to optimize the full visual impact of
photographs for the Web site. To make this happen, Berkowitz said he
created the ability to hover the cursor over one area of a larger
picture, producing a detailed enlargement of a smaller section.
said his favorite page is called "Suitable for a King," which
displays an exquisitely hand painted 19th century functional spy
glass made of solid gold in Switzerland. Today, only 12 spy glasses
of this kind remain today. A video clip shows a tiny automated scene
moving on the outside barrel while the music box plays within this
intricately crafted antique.
to leave accurate information about glasses and vision aids for the
next generation, Fleishman said he included a special topics page
labeled "Treasures: Missing, Mistaken and Abused."
section of mistakes, there are pictures of glasses attributed to
famous owners for whom ownership would be impossible.
to Fleishman, glasses from Mount Vernon described as belonging to
George Washington’s could not have been his. The reason? That
particular style wasn’t worn until 1820 and 1830, at least 20 years
after the President died.
weeks ago, Fleishman received a call from 89-year-old Dom DiMaggio,
the youngest brother of New York Yankees player, Joe DiMaggio. Dom
DiMaggio was an all star center fielder with the Boston Red Sox from
1940-1960, and the first player to enter the major leagues wearing
traveled to Dom DiMaggio’s Marion home, to discuss how this
precedent paved the way for other glasses wearing sports figures to
play on professional teams. Fleishman returned with an autographed
bespectacled picture of Dom DiMaggio to be posted on his Web site.
once disparaged over his career derailment, now envisions a future
of projects and goals. He would like to promote a stamp
commemorating Ben Franklin, the inventor of bifocals. He dreams
about establishing a World Congress on Vision Aids five years from
is an opportunity to be in Aladdin’s cave, and I never know what
I’ll find," says this father of four and grandfather of four.
September, David Fleishman and his wife Jacqueline are traveling to
Italy. David Fleishman is making arrangements to examine a telescope
owned by Galileo, at the History of Science and Technology Museum in
Florence. To find out if this is an authentic Galilean telescope,
Fleishman, a historical eyeglass buff, displays a photo of a
painting from the Jewish Museum in Paris, France, entitled
’The Rabbi.’ (Photo by Arthur