Contact lenses are clear, plastic discs used to correct the same conditions that eyeglasses do, like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (blurred vision due to the shape of the cornea). Today contact lenses provide clear vision to more than 37 million Americans, and nearly 120 million people worldwide.
The History of Contact Lenses
Though they might seem like a recent phenomenon, contact lenses actually go back a long way. In 1508, Leonardo da Vinci first suggested that the optics of the human eye could be altered by placing the cornea directly in contact with water. It wasn’t until centuries later, in the late 1800s, that his theory was evolved into a practical lens design.
1509Leonardo da Vinci illustrates the concept of contact lenses
1823British astronomer Sir John Herschel conceptualizes practical lens design
1887The first contact lens is manufactured from glass and fitted to cover the entire eye
1939The first plastic contact lens is made
1948Plastic contact lenses are designed to cover only the eye's cornea
1971Soft contact lenses are introduced
1981FDA approves of soft contact lenses for extended (overnight) wear
1987Disposable soft contact lenses are introduced
2001Progressive multifocal contact lenses are launched
2002Silicone-hydrogel contact lenses are first marketed
2010Custom-manufactured silicone-hydrogel lenses become available
2011Water gradient daily disposable contact lenses are introduced