The Surprising History of Contact Lenses

Contact Lenses greenfield ma | Longwood Eye & LASIK Center The miraculous little wonders that have replaced glasses for many people, contact lenses, have come a long way. If you wear them you no doubt realize how they have changed the way you see your world.

Long before modern technology made the concept of a lens that could fit inside the eye possible, the great thinkers of the world were noticing the refractive power of plain water. In the early 1500s, Leonardo da Vinci theorized that vision could be altered if the eye came in contact with water. About 100 years later, René Descartes placed a glass tube filled with liquid in direct contact with the cornea of his test subject. This was not such a great idea as the test subject was unable to blink.

In 1827, Sir John Herschel theorized that taking a mold of the cornea could produce lenses that would correct vision. Unfortunately, the technology simply wasn’t available to test Sir John’s theory.

Glass production technologies of the 1880s enabled the creation of thin lenses for the first time, and in 1888, Dr. Adolf Fick made and fitted the first successful contact lenses. But these scleral lenses (meaning they covered the entire eye) were thick and heavy. The lenses were made entirely of glass and therefore didn’t allow oxygen to reach the eye. Wearing these early “contacts” became quite painful after a few hours.

Throughout the 20s and 30s, huge advances in materials allowed Sir John’s theory to become a reality. New plastics made lightweight lenses possible, and the first contact lenses as we know them today were conformed to the shape of the eye. Until 1948, all contact lenses were scleral lenses. It was then that an optical technician named Kevin Touhy introduced the corneal lens, the small contact lens of today.

The take-away: Contact lens technology has progressed since its inception and continues to do so. At the Longwood Eye & LASIK Center, we strive for excellence – it’s our goal that your contact lenses benefit you as well as your vision. We invite you to call and schedule an appointment, today.


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