The first patent for a PAL was British Patent 15,735, granted to Owen Aves with a 1907 priority date. This patent included the manufacturing process and design which was however never commercialized. Unlike modern PALs, it consisted of a conical back surface and a cylindrical front with opposing axis in order to create a power progression.

While there were several intermediate steps (H. Newbold appears to have designed a similar lens to Aves around 1913), there is evidence to suggest that Duke Elder in 1922 developed the world’s first commercially available PAL (Ultrifo) sold by “Gowlland of Montreal”. This was based on an arrangement of aspherical surfaces.

Irving Rips at developed the first commercially viable blended lens in 1955 called the Younger Seamless Bifocal.

The  &  lenses were the first PAL of modern design. Bernard Maitenaz, patented Varilux in 1953, and the product was introduced in 1959 by  (Now Essilor). The first Varilux lenses’ surface structure was however still close to a bifocal lens, with an upper, aberration-free half of the surface for far vision and a rather large “segment” for clear near vision. The breakthrough in user adaptation and comfort, as well as peripheral and dynamic vision however occurred in 1972 with the introduction of Varilux 2, for which Maitenaz created a totally aspheric design and manufacturing process. developed freeform technology in 1983 with its own patented progressive series Gradal HS.

Early progressive lenses were relatively crude designs. Right and left were identical variable power lenses with distance and reading power centers in the upper and lower part of the lens, respectively. The glazing was made to accommodate eye position changes from distance viewing to reading. The point of reading is about 14 mm below and 2 mm to the nasal side in comparison to distance viewing. By tilting the reading power towards the nasal side in perfect symmetry, appropriate reading power was given to the wearer.

The symmetric design, however, was difficult to accept for patients, because the eyes in general work asymmetrically. When you look right, your right eye view distal and left nasal. Modern sophisticated progressive lenses are designed asymmetrically for greater patient acceptance and include special designs to cater to many separate types of wearer application: for example progressive addition lenses may be designed with distance to intermediate or intermediate to near prescriptions specifically for use as an occupational lens, or to offer enlarged near and intermediate view areas.