"Every person who wears glasses owes to Dr. Edgar D. TILLYER, internationally known lens authority, a debt of gratitude so great that mere words cannot express it. His brilliant mind has contributed more than a hundred important developments in the field of optical science."
Scientific American; "Personalities in Science"; January 1940, Page 3.
Edgar Derry TILLYER was born on 7 December 1881 in Dover, New Jersey, to Lorenzo Dow and Rozena (DERRY) TILLYER.
He was the only child of Lorenzo and Rozena TILLYER and seemed to have been always interested in science. Edgar graduated from Dover High School and received his B.S. degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He received two Masters of Science degrees, one from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and one from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Rutgers. Although his doctorate was honorary, after he received it, he was always known to family and co-workers as simply "Doc."
Edgar was employed by several government offices in Washington and then became the Director of the Research Laboratory at the American Optical Company (AO) in Southbridge, Massachusetts. He was a well-known inventor and physicist holding more than one hundred and fifty patents on lenses and optical devices either in his name on in the name of the AO
Edgar married Florence Louise LYND in 1906. Together they had four children.
Edgar Derry TILLYER died on 20 December 1973 in Southbridge, Massachusetts, after a short illness. He was 89 at the time.
Edgar's parents were opposites in about every way. Rozena Derry TILLYER, Edgar's mother, was a tall, possessive and domineering woman who was the only daughter of Daniel and Sarah DERRY. The DERRY family was a loud, argumentative family: a family of fighters.1 In 1905, Sarah DERRY died after a five-year illness and two weeks later, her husband, Daniel died.2 Afterward, Rozena boasted about the things that she was able to remove from her mother's house as her parents were confined upstairs in poor health. Rozena and her brother, William, secretly stripped Edgar's grandparent's house of furniture so they would be sure to get what they wanted. When Sarah and Daniel DERRY finally died, the whole downstairs was cleaned out with only a little furniture remaining upstairs.3
Lorenzo TILLYER, Edgar's father, was six months younger than Rozena, his wife, and was a rather mild, retiring man who was about five feet, six inches tall.4 Lorenzo was a newspaper man who learned his trade at eighteen with the Dover Mail. On 6 October 1875, at the age of twenty-one, he went into partnership with Francis HUMMEL, founding a competing weekly newspaper, The Dover Index. The paper was described as "Democratic in politics, a newsy paper, full of articles and items of general interest and local interests." It had more than 4000 subscribers.5 His political opinion was to elect only the best person; later, when he owned the only paper in town, he wrote, ". . . we hold that where there is but one newspaper in town, it has no right to tie itself to any political party."6
In 1880, Lorenzo and Rozena lived with her parents, Daniel and Sarah (FRANCISCO) DERRY on Orchard Street in Dover, New Jersey.7
In 1901 and 1902, Lorenzo was the Dover town clerk. When the Dover City Council changed members in 1903, they fired him. Lorenzo felt that he was the duly appointed town clerk for the three-year period that would have expired in 1904. To protect his position, and probably at the urging of Rozena, Lorenzo sued the City of Dover to retain his post and won.8
Lorenzo sold the Dover Index in 1906 and moved to Maryland to satisfy Rozena's whim to live on a farm. They purchased agricultural land in Princess Anne and tried to raise strawberries. This project failed and they moved back to New Jersey where Lorenzo TILLYER purchased the Hightstown Gazette in 1908. 9 While in Hightstown, they owned a two-story house. They _lived on the upper level and had a furniture and "all-purpose" store on one half of the lower level while renting the other half as living quarters.10 In the attic, Rozena had rows of shelves constructed to hold textiles and cloth that she bought when she saw them at bargain prices. 11
Hightstown Gazette Office Hightstown, N.J
Black dresses and a veil were the usual apparel for Rozena.12 She raised chickens in the back yard and was an expert shot, picking off animals in her garden with a rifle she kept on her back porch.13
Lorenzo and Rozena had three children but two babies died within a few months after their births. William Cobanks TILLYER was born on 15 August 1878 and died two weeks later. On 11 May 1883, Sadie Lou was born. Sadie lived for only four months. Edgar, born on 7 December 1881, was the only child to live to adulthood.14
Rozena and Lorenzo (DERRY) TILLYER with baby
Edgar Derry Tillyer and other family members.
Lorenzo tried to interest the young Edgar in male pursuits and he did enjoy bicycle trips and tennis with his father. Rozena, however, dressed the boy in velvet suits and tried to interest him in dolls and other traditionally feminine concerns.15
Rozena's brother, William DERRY, was a prominent physician, practicing in New York and Dover, New Jersey. He concocted medicines for his patients, one of them being a laxative which he called Dr. Derry's Purple Pills. The sales of these pills made the doctor quite a bit of money.16 Edgar found his uncle, Dr. DERRY, to be an interesting person to be around and soon accompanied the doctor on his house calls. At first, Edgar would remain in the buggy waiting for Dr. DERRY to return and discuss what had been done but later he actually went into the patient's home with his uncle and assisted in the medical care. Dr. DERRY was an excellent diagnostician. Edgar watched with fascination as the doctor developed his theories for the cause of the problem, tested these ideas and came to definite conclusions based on those tests. This mental ability would soon become Edgar Derry TILLYER's trademark, also. The doctor was also known for his brutality to his woman patients so that some families switched physicians and forbid Dr. DERRY to enter their homes. This behavior was observed by Edgar. Probably it was stored in his subconscious and emerged in his relations to women and his relations with those in the medical profession.17
Dr. DERRY found the young Edgar TILLYER to be a bright boy with promise. Since the doctor had no male children of his own (he had three daughters), he offered to adopt his nephew, change his name to DERRY, make him his heir, and send him to medical school. When Rozena heard about his scheme, she became incensed and kicked her brother out of her home. She would not even let his name be used in her house after that.18 19
Edgar D. TILLYER went to Dover High School.20 Dover had one of the first high schools in Morris County, New Jersey. The first graduating class of 11 students was in 1885. The program then was only a two-year program.21 When Edgar graduated in 189822, the program-of-study had expanded from a two-year program to a three-year program. It was not until 1901 that a full, four year traditional program was in place. The school at that time was in part of the "McFarlan Street building" between Sussex and Pequannock Streets.23Even though electric lights had been in Dover since 1889,24 there was no electricity in the school when Edgar and Roy were there. During the summer vacation in 1896, Edgar decided to install electricity in the school. He looked at the problem which at first glance appeared impossibly involved. Then using his budding ingenuity and ability to see through the complicated, he devised a simple way to solve the problem. Before the fall classes had started, Edgar had installed the first electric light system in Dover High School.25 He was in the same class as his best friend, Roy LYND. Roy was also the older brother of the girl who would eventually become his wife. Her name was Florence Louise LYND.26
The LYND family was a large, very happy family with six girls and Roy, the eldest and only boy. The LYND's seemed to always have an open house for the Dover teenagers. Many evenings there were spent dancing, having taffy pulls, and playing games. There was always so much going on there that Edgar spent much of his time there while he was a teen rather than staying at home. When he was home, he and his mother seemed to be in a never-ending argument.27
There seemed to be continuous music and dancing in the LYND home. Edgar TILLYER later told Florence LYND that he never really liked dancing because it "was a sexual act done in public."28
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