The History of Contact Lenses

For hundreds of years, people wore eyeglasses to correct sight imperfections, and while this was a functional way to restore a person’s eyesight, glasses are not for everyone. Then along came contact lenses, which offered a person good eyesight by placing small clear lenses directly onto the eye, and in this article, we will take a brief look at the history of the contact lens.

Da Vinci

The famous Leonardo Da Vinci first pioneered contact lenses by speculating that placing your head in a bowl of water could alter a person’s vision. He built a glass lens with a funnel on the side that allowed water to enter, and while he enjoyed a level of success, the device was impractical. In the early 17th century, a French scientist by the name of Rene Descartes reviewed Da Vinci’s work and proposed placing a tube of water directly against the cornea. While the device worked, blinking was a problem, and the idea was shelved, never to resurface until 200 years later. Of course, these are a far cry from the top coloured contact lenses by Lulu Lenses, which are available from the online supplier.

Thomas Young

In 1801, Thomas Young, an English scientist, made a basic pair on contact lenses that were based on Descartes’s design, but used a much thinner tube and wax to affix the lens to the eye. For several reasons the lenses did not work, and they were also quite impractical, and again the idea was forgotten, only to surface again some 34 years later.

Sir John Herschel

This British physicist hypothesised that a mould could be made of the cornea might be able to correct vision impairment, yet at that time, the necessary technology wasn’t available, and yet again development halted for almost another 100 years.

Dr. Adolf Fick

The late 19th century saw more efforts to develop a means of improving sight, as glass cutting technologies were emerging, along with methods to shape lenses and create very thin units. Designs for glass lenses that would fit directly onto the eye were created by a man called Dr. Adolf Fick, a Swiss physician who wrote a paper entitled ‘A contact spectacle’, in which he described small glass lenses that were fitted directly onto the cornea.

  1. A. Mueller

In 1887, an artificial eye maker by the name of F. A. Mueller created the very first pair on contact lenses as we know them today, although his version covered the entire eye. These lenses were slightly convex and a solution was used to set the eye, and although they worked, the lenses were heavy (made from glass) and as they covered the entire eye, oxygen could not enter the eyeball and this caused some discomfort.

The 1930s

This was a time when plastics were being discovered and developed, and thin, soft lenses were created, which revolutionised the contact lens industry. Even though the lenses were a great improvement on the bulky and heavy glass lenses, they still covered the entire eye and could only be worn for a few hours at a time.

In the 1960s, great developments were made with both hard and soft contact lenses, finally arriving at what we have today, which are functional, comfortable and come in a range of attractive shades to change your look completely.

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