How Contact Lenses Were Invented
Leonardo da Vinci developed the idea of contact lenses in 1500’s. He made a sketch of corrective lenses which would fit over a person’s eyes. In 1632, Rene Descartes came up with an idea of corneal contact lenses. Later that century, Philippe de la Hire sketched concave lenses that could be placed over a person’s eyes.
However, there was no one who ever brought up any idea on how these lenses could be used until 1801 when Thomas young created the first corneal lens and tried it on his own eye. He was inspired by the writings of Descartes, a 28-year-old English doctor. He created his contact lenses by filling a glass tube with water and putting a microscopic lens at one end. Young was trying to correct his own vision.
The first glass contact lenses were created by a German glass blower in 1887 for Nazi soldiers as they were not allowed to wear glasses. Therefore, the glassblower gave them contact lenses to help improve their sight. The demand of contact lenses increased after the war. Most of the contact lenses were made of plastic rather than glass.
These were the years when glass contact lenses were invented. However, these glass contact lenses were not comfortable. They could only correct a small number of eye conditions and were not considered a huge success. However, it was one step in the right direction.
In 1948, Kevin Touhy discovered that contact lenses could be made from polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). These plastic contact lenses were very comfortable compared to the glass contact lenses. Otto Wichterle, a Czechoslovakian developed the first soft contact lenses which continue to be used until now.
However, the evolution of the contacts did not stop with the discovery of the soft contact lenses. Gas permeable lenses were first used in 1978. These lenses are a type of hard lenses that allow oxygen to flow through the cornea freely.
The gas permeable lenses enable the eye to breathe. However, these lenses could only be worn for a short period of time. In 1981, the contacts were approved for extended wear but still the contacts had to be used for only one week. If anybody wore them for too long, they would risk an eye infection.
The disposable contact lenses were introduced in 1987. These were soft lenses that could be worn for longer periods of time before being thrown away. In order to allow the eye to receive 100% oxygen, it is wise to wear the contact lenses in the morning and take them out every night before you sleep.
The disposable contact lenses that could be used for up to 30 days without removing them overnight were developed in 2001. With these types of contact lenses, the wearer can wear their lenses the whole day and night.
Today, there are two main types of contact lenses in the market; there are hard lenses which are hardy and can be worn for a longer time and soft lenses which are more comfortable to wear.