Contact lenses are often considered to be a recent invention. However, Leonardo da Vinci writing as long ago as the sixteenth century, described glass cups containing water which were placed over his eyes in order to improve his vision. These might reasonably be considered to be the first contact lenses.
Later in the seventeenth century, Descartes realised that the eye’s vision could be improved by coming into contact with water.
In the eighteenth century, the physicist Thomas Young put water into small convex lenses with wax seals and placed them against his eyes thereby improving his vision.
It was in the nineteenth century that contact lens practice truly began. The original lenses were made of glass, shaped like artificial eyes and were used in an attempt to improve the vision of diseased eyes.
A new era began in the 1950’s when small ‘corneal’ lenses were manufactured using Perspex. Two British opticians who contributed greatly to this type of lens were Frank Dickinson and Keith Clifford Hall.
During the 1960’s, Professor Wichterle of Prague announced that he had developed a revolutionary ‘soft’ plastic with the consistency of a well chewed pastille. This material was the forerunner of today’s soft contact lenses.