Ok, so perhaps Leonardo da Vinci didn’t quite invent the concept of contact lenses as we know them today, but he is often credited as being the one who came up with the original idea, way back in 1508 and his Codex of the eye, Manual D.
In this worthy tome, the Renaissance painter described how corneal power could be altered directly if someone submerged their entire head into a bowl of water, or if a glass hemisphere filled with water was worn over the eye. While Leonardo didn’t put forward this idea as a way of correcting a person’s vision, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that the concept was later adapted by other forward-thinking members of society later down the line.
Descartes was one of these and come 1636, he came up with the idea of using a glass tube with liquid in it and one end made of clear glass that was intended to correct vision when placed in direct contact with the cornea. However, this wasn’t particularly practical since it made it impossible for people to blink.
Anyone with bad eyesight had a bit of a wait on their hands as it wasn’t until 1887 when F E Muller, a German glassblower, first came up with an eye covering that could actually be seen through. Come the 1950s, the very first corneal lenses were developed that could be worn for up to 16 hours a day. They were quite expensive and pretty fragile, and it wasn’t until the 90s that silicone hydrogel contact lenses came onto the market… the lenses that we know and love today!
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