Eyewear not only includes eyeglasses, goggle, etc. It also includes contact lenses. So when talking about the history of eyewear, we cannot miss contact lenses.
Since the development of the first convex magnifying glass used to start fires in the ancient city of Nineveh, the advancement of lens use and vision correction have made astronomical strides. Today, an overwhelming number of vision correction options are available, from eyeglasses to the most advanced vision surgery.
In the 1930's American optometrist Dr. William Feinbloom created the first hard plastic contact lenses. These were fitted by taking impressions of the eye using a soft, wax like substance which subsequently hardened. Although lightweight and unbreakable, these lenses still covered the entire front portion of the eye. Hard lenses covering only the cornea weren't introduced until the 1950's. These were the first contact lenses that were widely available -- which meant that for the first time ever, vision correction did not necessarily require eyeglasses.
Soft contact lenses were introduced in 1971 for daily wear. This popularity is largely attributed to the lenses being extremely comfortable. The birth of soft lenses was inspired by Otto Wichterle, a Czechoslovakian chemist who began experimenting with a different kind of plastic called HEMA (hydroxyethylmethylmethacrylate), which is optically clear and is used in surgery because of its compatibility with human tissue.
Rigid gas permeable lenses (RGP) were introduced in 1979 and are designed to combine the visual sharpness of hard lenses with the comfort of soft lenses. RGP's are made of a flexible plastic material that allows more oxygen to reach the cornea than do hard lenses.
The world's first disposable contact lens was introduced in 1987. Disposable lenses are worn up to 30 days and then discarded and replaced with a new sterile pair. They share the benefits of comfort and convenience with conventional soft lenses, while eliminating the need for lens cleaning.
In 1994 the first daily-disposable contact lenses were introduced. These lenses are intended to be worn for a single day, then discarded and replaced with a fresh, sterile pair. Daily-disposables offers the shortest lens wear regimen possible, and eliminates the inconvenience of lens care altogether for daily wear patients.
However appealing the concept of contact lenses, the fitting process was crude and extensive. A trial set contained up to a thousand lenses, and one glass lens after another was inserted onto the eye until one was determined to be suitable. Because the lenses covered both the cornea and sclera (white of the eye), they were large and heavy, making it very difficult to center them properly.
Some of the latest options for vision correction are surgical procedures which use diamond-tipped blades or cool beams of laser energy to correct the shape of the cornea and restore vision to normal or close to normal. Radial Keratotomy (RK), Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), and LASIK are refractive surgical procedures that are currently used. On the near horizon are INTACS. These are plastic rings that are surgically inserted into the cornea and correct nearsightedness. Also Implantable contact lenses are being developed which are inserted directly into the eye. Some researchers are speculating that in the future vision correction may eventually be as simple as placing drops in the eyes to form instant contact lenses. A special drop, with the patient's prescription, would be placed onto the eye, and then harden immediately into a contact lens offering excellent comfort, fit and vision.
The history of eyewear is not very long. But it has gone through great progress. You can see it from the development of contact lenses.
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