History of Contact Lenses

Here is a brief chronological reminder of important events in the history of contact lenses…

Many think that contact lenses are the invention of modern times but the first conceptual design of contact lenses is mentioned in the papers of Leonardo da Vinchi in the early 16th century.

1801 – Englishman Thomas Yang is the author of the basic idea of a contact lens. He described an apparatus (hydrodiascope) made of microscope lens and glass tube filled with water. The experiment was intended to throw the cornea from ??the eye diopter system in order to replace it with another lens.

1887 – German Muller made a glass contact lens as a health aid for a man who had no eyelids.

1888 – The first diopter correction was made by Adolf Eugen Fick of Zurich and a year later, regardless of Fick, the diopter correction was also made by German Muller. The ophthalmologist A.E. Fick in that occasion used the term contact lens and just under his orders, the first scleral contact lens was developed by company Zeiss optical Works. That same year, Parisian ophthalmologist Jean Baptisa Kalt made a corneal contact lens, but it was too heavy, so it was difficult to get it centered on the eye.

1928 – Zeiss Company developed the first test set of glass contact lenses of different curvatures with different diopters.

1936 – Rohm and Hass Company invented the Plexiglas. Since that time the material was used for the manufacture of contact lenses. There are still discussions about who made the first contact lens from Plexiglas.

1938 – In the Netherlands, Thier applies a contact lens made of Plexiglas into the eye.

1939 – Fritz in Brussels applies contact lens made of Plexiglas. That same year Muller and Welte from Stuttgart invent glass contact lens, which in combination gives good wear tolerance, with an accuracy of diopter that no scientist managed to do before. With these contact lenses, the scleral part was blown out, and the exact optical central part was further abraded. These corneo-scleral contact lenses were altered and became better when they were eventually produced from Plexiglas (PMMA). For almost twenty years the material that prevailed in the manufacture of contact lenses was Plexiglas (PMMA).

1960 – After a long period of no development, in Czechoslovakia Professor Wichterle and engineer Lima discover a new material called polyhydroxyethylmethakrylat which is normally called HEMA. From this material Prof. Wichterle and engineer Lima invented the soft contact lens which is a turning point in the contact lens history. The main characteristics of this material were flexibility and hydrophilia in retaining the optical stability and high tolerance in wearing.

1976 – In this year, hard contact lenses were made from a mixture of PMMA and silicone, and were called RGP contact lenses, which have good oxygen permeability, one of the most important things when using contact lenses.

1980 – The production of soft contact lenses began to use silicone also, a material that allows a good oxygen permeability. While improving these lenses, a new combination of materials was discovered, siliconehyadrogel. This material is used for the making of lenses designed for extended wear (flex wear), which means a person can wear them while sleeping, i.e. it allows the breathing of the cornea even when the eyelids are closed.

1983 – Started the production and use of soft contact lenses in color.

1990 – Food and Drug Administration-FDA in the United States ordered that a certain type of contact lenses cannot be worn longer than the specified deadline.

1995 – Daily contact lenses manufactured, which are for its convenience nowadays most prevalent in the market.

1997 – First monthly silicone hydrogel contact lenses, Ciba Vision – Night & Day.

2004 – The second generation of silicone hydrogel contact lenses, Johnson & Johnson – Acuvue Oasys.

2005 – The third generation of silicone hydrogel contact lenses, Cooper Vision – Biofinity.

2009 – The first day silicone hydrogel contact lenses, Johnson & Johnson – 1-Day TruEye.

2011 – Bauch & Lom introduced Purevision 2 HD, the third generation of hydrogel silicone contact lenses.


Further research of the material for the making of contact lens is directed towards the least restrictions on corneal metabolism and mechanical stress on the anterior segment of the eye, the reduction of thickness, and also higher oxygen permeability and retention of optical quality of contact lenses and simple maintenance.

Taken from: www.kontaktne-lece.eu