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Contact Lens - History
Leonardo Da Vinci is frequently credited with introducing the idea of contact lenses in his 1508 Codex of the eye, Manual D, where he described a method of directly altering corneal power by submerging the eye in a bowl of water. Leonardo, however, did not suggest his idea be used for correcting vision—he was more interested in learning about the mechanisms of accommodation of the eye.

In 1801, Thomas Young, made a basic pair of contact lenses on the model of Descartes. He used wax to affix water-filled lenses to his eyes. This neutralized his own refractive power. He then corrected for it with another pair of lenses.

It was not until 1887 that a German glassblower, F.E. Muller, produced the first eye covering to be seen through and tolerated. In 1887, the German ophthalmologist Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick constructed and fitted the first successful contact lensFick's lens was large, unwieldy, and could only be worn for a couple of hours at a time. August Müller in Kiel, Germany, corrected his own severe myopia with a more convenient glass-blown scleral contact lens of his own manufacture in 1888.

Dr. Dallos with Istvan Komàromy (1929), perfected a method of making molds from living eyes. This enabled the manufacture of lenses that, for the first time, conformed to the actual shape of the eye.

In 1930s when polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA or Perspex/Plexiglas) was developed, allowing plastic scleral lenses to be manufactured for the first time. In 1936, optometrist William Feinbloom introduced plastic lenses, making them lighter and more convenient. These lenses were a combination of glass and plastic.

In 1949, the first "corneal" lenses were developed. These were much smaller than the original scleral lenses, as they sat only on the cornea rather than across all of the visible ocular surface, and could be worn up to sixteen hours per day. PMMA corneal lenses became the first contact lenses to have mass appeal through the 1960s, as lens designs became more sophisticated with improving manufacturing (lathe) technology.

One important disadvantage of PMMA lenses is that no oxygen is transmitted through the lens to the conjunctiva and cornea, which can cause a number of adverse clinical effects. By the end of the 1970s, and through the 1980s and 1990s, a range of oxygen-permeable but rigid materials were developed to overcome this problem.

The principal breakthrough in soft lenses was made by the Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim who published their work "Hydrophilic gels for biological use" in the journal Nature in 1959. This led to the launch of the first soft (hydrogel) lenses in some countries in the 1960s and the first approval of the "Soflens" material by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1971. These lenses were soon prescribed more often than rigid lenses, mainly due to the immediate comfort of soft lenses; by comparison, rigid lenses require a period of adaptation before full comfort is achieved. The polymers from which soft lenses are manufactured improved over the next 25 years, primarily in terms of increasing the oxygen permeability by varying the ingredients.

In 1972, British optometrist Rishi Agarwal was the first to suggest disposable soft contact lenses. In 1998, an important development was the launch of the first silicone hydrogels onto the market by CIBA VISION in Mexico. These new materials encapsulated the benefits of silicone—which has extremely high oxygen permeability—with the comfort and clinical performance of the conventional hydrogels which had been used for the previous 30 years. These lenses were initially advocated primarily for extended (overnight) wear although more recently, daily (no overnight) wear silicone hydrogels have been launched.

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