History of Contact Lenses and Improved Technology
In 1508 Leonardo da Vinci sketched and described several forms of contact lenses but did not actually develop a lens or device. Others thereafter described or suggested corneal contact lenses in rudimentary forms. However, it wasn’t until 1887 that a German glassblower named F.E. Muller produced the first device to cover the eye and actually be tolerated. Then in 1929, a Hungarian physician named Joseph Dallos perfected a method of taking molds from living eyes so that lenses could be made to more closely conform to the ocular curvatures.
Contact lenses as we know them today were not developed until 1936 when a New York optometrist named William Feinbloom fabricated the first American made contact lenses and introduced the use of plastic lenses.
In 1960, Otto Wichterle from Czechoslovakia developed the material used for the first soft lenses. It was a soft, hydrophilic (water absorbing) plastic now known as polymacon.
In 1971, Bausch & Lomb, Inc. brought the technology of soft contact lenses to the world. The lenses were known as the Bausch & Lomb Soflens®.
The first rigid gas permeable lens (RGP) became available in 1979 using a co-polymer of PMMA (polymethylmethacrylate, i.e. Plexiglas) and silicone.
In 1987, the contact lens industry was further revolutionized with the availability of Acuvue disposable soft lenses brought to market by Vistakon, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson company. Disposable soft lenses increased patient comfort, improved convenience and reduced ocular complications. Today, the finest soft lenses in the world are all disposable materials.
Within the past few years several companies have developed silicone based soft lenses that have six times more oxygen transmission than other lenses. The FDA has approved some of those lenses to be worn continuously night and day without removal for up to thirty days.
Technology continues to improve making the contact lens more exciting than ever before. Whether you need bifocal contacts, want to change your eye color, wear a lens with your favorite NFL team logo on it or create a cat eye for a Halloween costume……….it’s all available today!