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History of Contact Lenses

Mon 20th Aug 2007 - 11:43 am - Back to Article Selection

In his 1508 Codex of the eye Leonardo da Vinci was the first to put forward the idea of directly altering the refractive power of the cornea. In 1801 Thomas Young contructed an "eyecup" filled with liquid which fitted directly over the eye however this was not intended as a vision corrector but as an intrument of study.

The first successful contact lens was fabricated and fitted by the German physiologist Adolf Eugen Fick in 1887 using brown glass. These early lenses, first trialled on rabbits, Fick himself and later a group of volunteers were between 18 and 21mm in diamter and rested on the relatively insensitive rim of tissue surrounding the cornea. The space between the lens and the cornea was filled with a grape sugar solution and could only be worn for several hours at a time making it inpractical for everyday use. It is also reasonable to assume that the sugar rich solution used to cushion the lens encouraged the growth of bacteria.

In 1888 August Muller based in Kiel, Germany manufactured the first glass-blown contact lens to cure his own severe short-sightedness. This method of manufacture persisted until the 1930s when plastic lenses were developed (more about this in the materials section).

The manufacture of lenses exactly conforming to the shape of the eye was developed in 1929 by several independent inventors such as Dr Dallos (Hungarian) building on the work of Sir John Herschel in the 1845 Encyclopaedia Metropolitana where he put forward two alternative methods for visual correction:

"a spherical capsule of glass filled with animal jelly", or "a mould of the cornea mounted on a transparent medium"

The next major change in lens technology occurred in the 1950s when the first corneal lenses were developed, these were a vast improvement on previous designs in that instead of occupying the entire visible surface of the eye, they rested only on the cornea itself. Through the 1960s corneal lenses began to assume a mass appeal as designs became more sophisticated and manufacturing technology improved.

Disclaimer: The author is not a medical doctor, optician, ophthalmologist or any other medical professional, this article has been compiled using a variety of internet reference sources and while every effort has been made to ensure accuracy this cannot be guaranteed. No preference for product or brand is inferred or intended and the contents of this article are not to be used in whole or in part to inform a decision regarding any aspect of contact lens use.

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