Contact Lenses

Today we will talk about contact lens history.

Famous Historian Pliny claims that the roman emperor Nero in the first century AD was said to have used an emerald to view games at the Coliseum. It isn’t clear if this was for the coloration of the lenses or due to their refractive effects.

Leonardo Davinci, the Italian scientist, mathematician, engineer, and painter, sketched 1508 of a man with his face submerged in a bowl of water, demonstrating the corneal neutralization, the refractive power of the bowl with water in it.

In 1637 Rene decorate, the famous french scientist, thought of something called a hydroscope, a long tube filled with water placed on the eye, demonstrating the power of glass and water to create a refractive effect on the cornea of the glass and water, this started getting people to think about the idea of contact lenses.

In 1801 Thomas Younge, an English physician studied the cornea and how it was different from the crystal lens in that it doesn’t have a communicative strength to it. He also studied wavelength theory and propelled the theory of light in wavelength. What he did with the cornea demonstrated Descartes’s invention by making a basic pair of contact lenses based on Descartes’ idea. He changed the contact lens design by reducing the size of the glass and then using wax for the water-filled glass of his eyes. While not a practical invention, this demonstrated that the idea worked.  

Sir John Hirschel 1823, an astronomer and English physician was the first person to describe a contact lens. Everything before this set the theory but wasn’t realistic until sir john Heschel.

In 1887 FA Muller a german glassblower had a monocular patient, and the doctor had removed the eyelid from the good eye due to growth. Necessity bred invention and this glassblower was able to create the first contact lens on the patient’s eye to preserve his eye from drying out and as a protective means to cover the eye. This patient enjoyed the lens for 20 years, greatly improving the trajectory of contact lenses.

Around the same time, Adolf Fick, a swiss physician studying the effect of glass contact lenses on rabbits, noticed that the rabbits could only tolerate the contact lenses for 8 hours, after which the lack of oxygen caused swelling and moisture to the eyes.

Edward Call a Paris optician 1888 started applying contact lenses to their eyes. At this time contact lenses were gigantic and made out of glass, easily breaking and hard to manufacture.

In 1939 William Feinblum, a new york optometrist was the first one to use plastic in contact lenses, enabling these contact lenses to be lighter.

Kevin Tuohy in 1948 came up with a material called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), an all-plastic material, which was a lot lighter and smaller, 8-10 mm in diameter. This is a huge advance in the invention of contact lenses.

These still had holes in them to allow some gas exchange. These still could not be tolerated for long periods.

The contact lens history demonstrates how great advancements in eye technology often happen in extremely short periods.