Day 34: Seventy percent of the US population 18 years or older wears glasses and or contact lenses. That is almost three out of four people. In fact, 13% of the population wear contacts regularly. That is more than one person in ten. But what is it that we put in our eye? What are contact lenses?
Ideas for contact lenses date back all the way to the Renaissance and the musings of Leonardo Da Vinci. The scientific character of Leonardo shows up in many of his theoretical sketches one of which gives the idea that direct contact of water and the cornea of the eye may have effects on vision.
The first contact lenses, arguably made in 1887, were made of blown glass. They were heavy and covered the whole surface of the eye. This restricted access of oxygen to the eye, so that these primitive contacts could be worn only for a few hours. They never became too popular. The first set of contacts that resembled the modern contacts we wear today was created in 1948. They were made of polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA. They were not quite gas permeable like the contacts of today, but they moved with the eye and were capable of allowing oxygen gas under the surface of the lens. These were the first contact lenses popular with the “mass.” 1971 saw the first soft contact lens that we commonly wear today. Although some gas permeable hard contact lenses are still available due to their higher sharpness, the comfort of the soft silicone hydrogel lenses is unbeatable.
So, the 70% of all who read this, take a moment and say thank you to Leonardo Da Vinci, the master of Mona Lisa and the theorist on contact lenses.