When we compare eyeglasses to contact lenses, they are still relatively new. Eyeglasses were invented in Italy roughly in 1290, whereas contact lenses have not been around too long, with new developments being made even now.

Here is an interesting timeline of events for the invention of contact lenses, right up to the modern contact lenses that we all know and enjoy now.

The History and Invention of Contact Lenses

Eyeglasses were first invented over 700+ years ago in Northern Italy. In contrast, disposable contact lenses were only developed in 1995, and small contact lenses that are placed over the cornea were created just 60 years ago. However, the idea of contact lenses has been around for much longer.

It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci drew the first known sketch that suggested the optics of an eye could perhaps be altered by the contact of water on the cornea. Da Vinci’s sketches were produced in 1508, and it is thought that many years later, during the development of contact lenses, that Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches and ideas were used to inspire the process.

Just over 200 years later, in 1827, Sir John Herschel (an English astronomer) put together the idea of creating a mold of the human eye. These molds would later help develop lenses that could be placed onto the eye’s front surface. However, it was over 50 years later when these lenses were produced, and it is not clear who was responsible. While some reports of the development state that in 1887 F.A. Muller created the first glass contact lens, others believe that Adolf E. Fick and Edouard Kalt produced them in 1888.

As you can imagine, back then, contact lenses were not at all how they are now. The first glass contact lenses were too heavy and were designed to cover the white of the eye as well. Due to the large size of these contact lenses, they significantly and severely reduced the amount of oxygen flow to the cornea. Thus, no-one could wear them for longer than a few hours, and therefore, they didn’t gain acceptance from many people.

Fast forward to 1936, and William Feinbloom created the lighter contact lenses made from glass and plastic. Then in 1948, Kevin Tuohy produced corneal contact lenses that only covered the cornea and were made of PMMA. PMMA allowed a better oxygen flow to keep the eyes healthy and, therefore, could be worn for over 16 hours.

Thanks to the advancements in contact lenses and eye doctor’s developing their fitting expertise; contact lenses started to gain appeal to the masses in the 1950s-1960s.

In 1971, the first-ever FDA-approved soft contact lenses were developed in the United States. Soft contact lenses offered better comfort for wearers, so they soon became popular compared to PMMA. More than 90% of contact lenses prescribed in the United States are soft contact lenses even today.

Are you considering making the switch to contact lenses? Our eye doctors in Colorado Springs are passionate about keeping your eyes healthy. Why not schedule an appointment to discuss your new contact lenses with our team in Colorado Springs?