History of Contact Lenses
The history of the contact lens includes some remarkable people,
Leonardo da Vinci among them. It is an amazing history, beginning
in 1508 and still continuing with advances today. Explore this
- 1500’s Leonardo da Vinci first explores the concept
of contact lenses. He explained how immersing the eye in a bowl
water could change the power of the cornea. Leonardo sketches
several forms of contact lenses.
- Mid 1600’s Rene Descartes suggests that corneal contact
lens can be used to correct eyesight. His idea describes using
a glass tube filled with liquid, with an end made of clear glass.
The tube was to be placed directly over the cornea. The idea
worked in theory, but not practicality. The tube prevented blinking.
Thomas Young expands on Descartes’ idea. He designs
a quarter inch glass tube filled with water fitted with a microscope
at the outer end. Young uses this device to correct his own vision.
Young’s invention did not correct the problems of light
- mid-1800’s Sir John Herschel suggests two important
ideas. The first is a sphere of glass filled with animal jelly.
involves making a mold of the eye to fit the sphere exactly on
the eye surface.
- 1887-1888 Adolph Fick explains how afocal scleral
contact “shells” can
be placed on the less sensitive part of the eye. These workable
lenses are made of heavy blown glass and cover the entire eye.
The space between the glass and the cornea is filled with a sugar
solution. In this same time period Muller develops a more comfortable
glass blown scleral lens.
- 1929 Dr. Dallos uses Herschel’s
idea of taking a mold of the eye.
- 1936 William Feinbloom uses Plexiglas
( polymethyl methacrylate) to make a plastic scleral lens.
The center is made out of glass
and the outer band is made of plastic.
- 1945 The American Optometric
Association recognizes contact lenses as an important part
of the field of optometry.
- 1948 Kevin Touhy begins making contact
lenses entirely of plastic. These still cover the entire cornea.
This same year, Dr George
Butterfield designs a lens that sits better on the eye.
Otto Wichterle experiments with a soft water absorbing plastic
to make contact lenses. These soft contact lenses are much more
- 1971 Soft contact lenses are approved by the US FDA and become
commercially available through Bausch and Lomb.
- 1978 The
first toric contact lenses are approved for distribution.
The first rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses are made
and silicone- acrylate lenses are sold.
Oxygen permeable materials or polymers are developed through
out this time period. Tinted daily wear
soft lenses, extended wear soft lenses, bifocal daily wear soft
lenses, tinted RGP, extended wear RGP, disposable soft contact
lenses, multi-purpose lenses, planned replacement lenses, daily
wear two-week extended replacement lenses, all became available
during this time period.
- 1999 Silicone hydrogels become commercially
available, offering extreme comfort.