Vision Quest: The History of Contact Lenses

Many Generation X-ers have school photographs discreetly buried to hide pictures of themselves in their awkward stages in junior high. Many were photographed wearing large, round eyeglasses…perhaps with a rose or purple tint to the frame and lens. The 1980s only offered so much in terms of eyewear fashion. Today's junior high students walk around in Invisiline braces and colored contact lenses and display their school photos proudly. Contact lenses are not exactly a recent development; however, they did not become mass marketed and affordable until the Gen-Xers were heading to college. Since the first pair of contact lenses was created, advancements in contact lens science have been consistent. Today, contact lenses can correct a range of vision problems and contacts can be worn by children as young as eight years old (though younger children may be fitted to correct serious vision problems). This article briefly explains the history of contact lenses.

Leonardo da Vinci considered the contact lens back in 1508 suggesting that a lens could greatly improve vision if applied directly to the eye. In the 1820s, English astronomer John Herschel considered fitting a lens to the eye and in 1887 a glass eye maker, F.A. Muller, fitted an eye with the first glass contact lens. In 1888, A.E. Zurich, a physicist, made a pair of glass lenses to correct his own vision and coined the term "contact lens. In the 1900s, the contact lens science went into high gear with many chemists, physicians, and engineers trying out different materials to make a comfortable, corrective lens. Plastic contact lenses were invented in 1938. In 1947, the first contact lens made of plastic that covered only the cornea was invented by American Kevin Tuohy. Throughout the history of contact lenses, constant advancements have been made.

Debunking Fact from Fiction in the History of Contact Lenses

Truths about contact lenses are as follows: soft contact lenses grossly outsell hard contact lenses; children can wear contact lenses as long as they are mature enough to take care of them, contacts do not cause eye infections if properly cleaned, and contacts can greatly improve peripheral vision.

Myths about contact lenses are as follows: contact lenses can get lost behind your eye, contacts cause eye infections and blindness, you cannot wear contacts to play sports, and contacts cause eye irritation.

The history of contact lenses is still being written. As long as contact lens wearers have regular eye exams, dispose of contact lenses as prescribed, keep contacts clean, and take care of their contact lenses and overall eye health, contact lenses can be a joy to ears- especially when compared with the alternative- eyeglasses. The history of contact lenses is evidence that the future of this industry will only be brighter.