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Question:

When was the first contact lens actually made?

Answer:

1801 – Thomas Young, with his medical education, did experiments with light and glass. His conclusion resulted in the development of Descartes' idea – a ¼-inch long, water-filled glass tube, which contained a microscopic lens at the outer end. He used this to correct his own vision.

1827 – An English astronomer, Sir John Herschel, introduced the idea of grinding a contact lens to conform exactly to the eye's surface.

1887 – A German glassblower, F.E. Muller, manifested Sir John Herschel's idea into an actual glass lens that covered the entire eye. (Ouch!)

1888 – A. Eugen Fick, a Swiss physician, and Edouard Kalt, a French optician, simultaneously, but independently, used contact lenses to correct optical defects.

1929 - Joseph Dallos, a Hungarian physician, perfected a method of making molds of living eyes and using them to form lenses that fit exactly to the shape of the eye.

1936 - The first hard plastic contact lenses made in America were introduced by William Feinbloom, a New York optometrist. They were quite bothersome and could only be tolerated for about 4 hours at which point they had to be removed to replace the saline solution that filled the space between the eye and the lens.

1950 - Dr. George Butterfield, an Oregon optometrist, designed a lens that rested right on the cornea and was smaller than the size of the iris. A buffer solution was no longer needed, so the lenses could be worn all day.

1960 - Otto Wichterle, a Czech chemist, develops the first soft, water absorbing plastic contact lens. He used an unbelievable apparatus to make these lenses – a children's building set and a phonograph motor! But it worked and it was so inexpensive that he envisioned they could be worn on a disposable basis.


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