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History of Contact Lenses

history_contact_lensLeonardo da Vinci sketched and described several forms of contact lenses as early as 1508. A Frenchman by the name of Rene Descartes France suggested the corneal contact lens in 1632. Almost two centuries later in 1801, Thomas Young used Descarte’s idea and with a quarter-inch-long, water-filled glass tube and the outer end containing a microscopic lens used it to correct his own vision. In 1827, English astronomer Sir John Herschel ground a contact lens to conform exactly to the eye's surface. Glassblower F.E. Muller of Wiesbaden, Germany, produced the first eye covering designed to be seen through and tolerated in 1887. A year later, two independent researchers, A. Eugen Fick, a Swiss physician, and Paris optician Edouard Kalt, simultaneously reported using contact lenses to correct optical defects.

The 1900s saw a boom in the development of the contact lens. In 1929, Joseph Dallos, a Hungarian physician perfected the method of taking moulds from living eyes so that lenses could be made to conform more closely to individual sclera. In 1936, William Feinbloom, a New York optometrist, fabricated the first American-made contact lenses and introduces the use of plastic. After so much progress, in 1945, The American Optometric Association (AOA) formally recognized the growing contact lens field by specifying it as an integral part of the practice of optometry. In 1950, Dr. George Butterfield, an Oregon optometrist, designed a corneal lens, the inner surface of which follows the eye's shape instead of sitting flat. In 1960, the soft lens becomes available for distribution in the United States.

The last quarter of the century has seen rapid progress in the contact lens manufacturing. Today, the market is flooded with soft, semi-rigid, disposable, extended wear, bi-focal and even coloured eye lenses.

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