History Of Contact Lenses
The history of the contact lens stretches back over 500 years, though all the serious developments came after the late 1800s. Contact lenses have undergone numerous changes over the years, starting as pieces of glass and developing into flexible, porous silicone-hydrogel. The history of contact lenses includes some intellectual luminaries from the Renaissance period, as well as scientists from around the world.
The history of contact lenses begins, as does the history of so many things, with a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci in 1508. After that, Rene Descartes, in 1632, created the idea of a small lens that could be placed directly on the eye. It would be hundreds of years before these ideas were expanded upon and an actual contact lens created, but it was these ideas that laid the foundation for the later work.
The history of contact lenses realistically started in 1887, when a German glassblower created the first contact lens. The next year, a Swiss physician and a French optician got together to use a contact lens to improve vision. Glass contact lenses would dominate the history of contact lenses for the end of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, until better materials were developed.
Hard plastic contact lenses were developed in the 1930s and 1940s. These lenses were eventually made small enough to only cover the eye's cornea, allowing the rest of the eye to breath while the lens was in place. The history of contact lenses took another large step forward in the 1960s when a Czech chemist developed a soft plastic that would greatly improve contact lens comfort. Contact lenses would continue to improve as softer materials were developed and people were able to wear contact lenses for longer periods, including overnight.