Contact Lens Timeline

2000 BC Artificial eyes were in vogue in Egypt.
340 BC Knowledge of glass artificial eyes travelled to Venice.
1266 Roger Bacon published Opus Magnus outlining the principles behind corrective lenses.
1508 Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) noted that under water, visual clarity decreased. This has been mistakenly noted as a design for contact lenses.
1575 Ambrose Paré (1510-1590) recorded the use of human artificial eyes.      

Father Christoph Scheiner was first to measure and record the corneal radius by using the relationship of the size of an object with the size of the corneal reflected image.

1637 In "Ways of perfecting vision" René Descartes (1596-1650) described immersing the eye in water and showed that the refraction of the cornea was neutralised.
1685 Philip de la Hire postulated about a lens to correct myopia.
1741 Charles de Saint-Yves described the use of an artificial eye in the treatment of symblepharon.
1747 The first mention of Conical Cornea was made by Demours and his father.
1769  First keratometer to measure the radius of curvature of the cornea was constructed by Jesse Ramsden; a similar instrument was later developed by Hermann von Helmholtz.
1801 Thomas Young (1773-1829) eminent English Physicist, put water in a small convex lens with a wax collar around it. When placed against his eye it made him artificially myopic. He also showed that the cornea was not involved in accommodation.
1827 Sir John Herschel (1792-1871), English astronomer, considered astigmatism to be due to irregularity of the cornea and considered if vision could be improved by the application of some animal jelly contained in a capsule of glass against the cornea. Herschel's views were published in an article entitled Light in 1828 and the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana in 1845.
1859 William White Cooper, founder of the Ophthalmology Department of St Mary's Hospital in London published "Wounds and Injuries to the Eye". In this book he recommended the insertion of a glass mask fitting into the fornices of the eye to prevent symblepharon following lime burns. Made by Gray & Halford of London
1887 The first scleral shell fit was reported by F Ad Mϋller Söhne, a firm of artificial eye makers in Wiesbaden Germany, to protect an eye.

Paper by Dr. Adolf Eugen Fick a Zurich physician reported fitting refractive contact lenses to traumatised or irregularly shaped corneas achieving a wearing time of approx 2 hours. The contact lenses were produced by Prof. Ernst Abbe at Zeiss Jena.

Eugene Kalt a Parisian ophthalmologist tried to correct keratoconus with contact lenses with central touch hoping to arrest the development of the cone. Results of Kalt's work were reported by Prof. Photinos Panas at a meeting of the Academie de Medicine in Paris in March 1888.

Solutions of fluorescein were introduced into ophthalmology by Straub for the investigation of corneal lesions

1889 August Mϋller of Gladbach, Germany, had lenses made to correct his own –14.00D myopia by Otto Himmler in Berlin. Even with the use of cocaine, wearing times were poor.
1896 Lohnstein in Berlin and 1897 Siegrist in Switzerland made a device called the hydrodiascope to correct Keratoconus.
1900 Dr Louis de Wecker used a contact lens as a splint following a corneal graft.
1910 Friedrich A Mϋller and Albert C Mϋller published a report of their fitting of "Contact adhesion spectacles" in their book "The Artificial Eye".
1911  Carl Zeiss produced their first experimental glass contact lens ground from solid glass to very high standard of optical precision.
1912 Carl Zeiss Jena introduced the first contact lens trial set. They also produced glass corneal lenses.
About 2,000 contact lenses were made in Europe this year, mainly by Zeiss.

Weihmann suggested that ulcers and other epithelial defects could be treated by a contact glass rather than bandages. Heine upheld their use and added marginal dystrophies, trachoma, trichiasis, pemphigus and others.

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) was discovered by Otto Röhm of Röhm & Haas in Germany as a paint binder.

1916 Zeiss produced their first fitting set especially for keratoconus.
1922 Wigand granted a patent on behalf of Carl Zeiss whereby a lens was produced by pressing between two lathe cut moulds.
1923 Weichmann suggested use of contact lenses in treatment of corneal ulcers.
1926 Friede suggested the use of contact lenses for ptosis.
1927 Adolf Mϋller-Welt started to make fluidless glass scleral lenses which allowed tears to circulate between the cornea and the lens, and also developed large trial sets/ inventories.
1928 Josef Dallos started work on contact lenses in Budapest making lenses by pressing glass onto a metal form and optically grinding both surfaces of the optical portion.
1929 Professor Leopold Heine of Kiel demonstrated the use of afocal contact lenses using the liquid lens to correct the ametropia using a set produced in collaboration with Zeiss 
1930 Zeiss made a trial set of 39 afocal lenses 11 mm, 12 mm and 13 mm scleral radii and 13 corneal curvatures from 5 to 11 mm. Umbral tinted contact lenses were also available.
1932 Rowland Hill and John Crawford, both working separately for ICI in the UK, arrived at commercial synthesis of PMMA. ICI developed PMMA or "Plexiglas", also known as "Perspex" or "Transpex." It was half the weight of glass.

Dr Josef Dallos established the modern impression technique, using Pollers Negocol to take a mould of the eye. From this a cast was made which was used to form the lens.  

Dallos submitted an application for a Hungarian patent for "Method of production of contact lenses that can be stabilised under the eyelids and worn over the eyeball" February 10th 1933, granted February 15th 1934 Number 108477.


William Feinbloom produced contact lenses with a glass optic zone and plastic carrier. These were known as the U series in 1937 and the T series from 1940.

George Nissel and Josef Dallos came to the UK and founded the first contact lens only practice in the UK at 18 Cavendish Square, London.


The first PMMA  lenses were produced at much the same time by Istvan Györffy in Hungary, Theo Obrig and Ernest Mullen in the US, and by Dixey's in the UK.

Dallos developed a telescopic combination of contact lens and spectacle lens.

1942 Theo Obrig produced first ever text book on contact lenses
1943 Norman Bier developed the idea of fenestration, largely eliminating veiling.

George Nissel, with George Grimes, founded G Nissel & Co, the first independent contact lens laboratory in the UK.

First contact lens fitting exams in the UK were instituted by the British Optical Association. 

1947 G Nissel & Co. produced the world's first lathes specifically made for contact lenses.
1948 Kevin M Tuohy Californian optician applied for a patent for a corneal lens 11.5-12.50 mm diameter.
1949 In 1946 50,000 pairs of contact lenses had been sold in the US. By 1949 this had increased to 200,000 pairs due mainly to the Tuohy lens.

HEMA material, the world's first water swellable gel, later known as HYDRON and used for soft lenses, was invented by Otto Wichterle and Drahoslav Lim in Prague.

The Microlens arrived. This was an improved corneal lens developed by Wilhelm P Söhnges of Germany, John C. Neill of America and Frank Dickinson of England, of 9.50 mm diameter and only 0.20 mm thick giving less lid interaction.

Foundation of the International Society of Contact Lens Specialists by Dickinson, Söhnges and Neill.


Walter Becker a Pittsburgh optometrist, developed silicone elastomer lenses.

Robert Morrison conducted a myopia control study with PMMA lenses.

1961 First usable soft lenses were produced by spin casting using a machine made from a Meccano set, by Otto Wichterle on his kitchen table on Christmas afternoon
1965 National Patent Development Corporation (NPDC), in a joint venture with Robert Morrison an optometrist from Harrisburg PA, bought the American patents and rights to HEMA from the Institute of Macro-Molecular Chemistry in Prague.
1966 Becker was granted US patent 3,228,741 on the 11th January for a silicone rubber contact lens.

Bionite became the first commercially available high water content soft contact lenses. It had been developed by Allan Isen and chemist Ken O'Driscoll for the Griffin Lens Lab. 

Norman Gaylord, a polymer chemist hired by Leonard Seidner and brother Joe, invented the siloxane-methacrylate polymer for this first truly gas permeable rigid lenses.


Bausch & Lomb launched the Soflens in the US, the first commercialisation of soft lenses

Patent for contact lenses made from collagen filed by Thiele and Söhnges.

1973 Soft toric lenses were introduced by Pennington and Hirst to Australia and New Zealand.
1975 Tom Shepherd started experimenting with cast moulding soft lenses. He gained various patents for cast moulding which were assigned to the International Lens Corp. (ILC)
1976 The foundation of the Cornea and Contact Lens Research Unit University of New South Wales Sydney (CCLRU) on the 5th October.

Hydrocurve soft toric gained FDA approval, the first soft toric lens available in the US.

Titmus Eurocon produced the Weicon Iris Print, colouring the iris by a photographic process.

1981 FDA approved Permalens and Hydrocurve, the first contact lenses for cosmetic 30 day extended wear correction of myopia.
1982 Danalens launched in Denmark. Made by the MIA Lens Company and invented by Dr Michael Bay this was the first disposable contact lens

Vistakon, now J&J Visioncare, bought the Stabilised Soft Lens Moulding technology from Michael Bay.

Hydron produced the Zero T toric lens, the first cast moulded toric.   

1984 Bausch & Lomb launched their Freshlens scheme for planned replacement, the first of its type.
1986 Wesley-Jessen produced the first coloured soft lens with dot matrix pattern.

The Acuvue Disposalens was launched in Florida.

Pilkington launched the Diffrax RGP bifocal, the first diffractive bifocal.


Supply of the Acuvue lens was extended to all the US and launched in the UK in September.

G Nissel & Co. launched the PS45, the first multifocal soft lens.


Bausch & Lomb launched Medallist, the first contact lens designed specifically as a daily wear monthly disposable modality.

G Nissel & Co launched the SV38, the first single vision aberration controlled soft lens.

1991 Wesley-Jessen produced the first colour soft toric.

CIBAVision launched Focus Torics, the first disposable toric lenses.

Pilkington Barnes-Hind launched the hybrid lens, Softperm.


The 1 Day Acuvue was introduced to test the market in the US.

The first disposable tinted lens, the Freshlook Lite tint, was launched.


Wesley-Jessen launched Freshlook Colours in the US, the first colour disposable lens.

1 Day Acuvue were rolled out across the whole of the US. 


Launch of the Premier lens, made by Award Contact Lenses in Scotland. The first lens specifically designed, developed and packaged for daily disposability by Ron Hamilton.

1 Day Acuvue was launched in the UK.

Australian practitioners start overnight wear of lenses for Accelerated Ortho K.

1996 Bausch & Lomb launched the Occasions Multifocal in UK, made by modified spin casting "Shape Casting," the first disposable multifocal.
1997 Acuvue, Surevue  and 1 Day Acuvue had a UV filter added and Acuvue lenses had an AV inversion mark.
1998 The Acuvue Bifocal was launched, featuring a pupil intelligent design said to optimise distance and near vision under varying light conditions.

PureVision continuous wear Silicone Hydrogel lens by Bausch & Lomb gained 30-day approval in the EU

The CIBAVision  Night & Day Silicone Hydrogel lens gained 30-night approval in the EU.

Acuvue 2 with UV filter and 1-2-3 inversion mark and reduced edge height was launched.

Wesley-Jessen launched the Freshlook Colourblends.


Johnson & Johnson launched the ultra thin Acuvue Toric lens.

Ron Hamilton launched daysoft®uv, the first daily disposable with a UV filter.

2001 CIBAVision launched Focus Dailies Progressive worldwide, the first daily disposable progressive lens.

CIBAVision launched the world's first daily disposable toric lens

The Triton translating soft bifocal lens by Don Ezekiel of Gelflex, Perth, Australia gained FDA approval.


The University of Florida announced the development of disposable contact lenses, to dispense prescription drugs for glaucoma, infections and other common eye problems.

Johnson & Johnson launched the Acuvue Advance in US in December. The silicone hydrogel lens for daily wear, which supplies 3 times more oxygen than the original Acuvue, contained an internal wetting agent called Hydraclear, allowing the lenses to retain the hydrophilic nature of regular hydrogels while countering the hydrophobic nature of silicone.


Johnson & Johnson launched the 1 Day Acuvue Colours, the first daily disposable coloured lens.

Johnson & Johnson launched the Acuvue Oasys silicone hydrogel lens for weekly extended wear.

Bausch & Lomb launched the PureVision Toric, the first silicone hydrogel toric.


The Acuvue Advance for Astigmatism was launched in the US.

CIBAVision launched New Focus Dailies with AQUA release and Visitint. The lens released PVA on each blink to reduce end of day dryness.

SynergEyes received FDA approval for their hybrid lens with a rigid centre and soft skirt.

Johnson & Johnson launched the 1 Day Acuvue Moist in the UK made from etafilcon A with a moisture rich ingredient, Lacreon.

The world's first wave front corrected daily and monthly disposable contact lenses launched by Veni Vidi, called Definitions Everyday and Definitions monthly.


Clear 1 Day was launched by ClearLab UK of Plymouth, cited as the first biocompatible daily disposable made with proprietary clear GMA material.

Cantor & Nissel launched the first lathe cut silicone hydrogels lens

CIBAVision launched the Freshlook Dailies Colours

Bausch & Lomb launched the PureVision Multifocal, the world's first silicone hydrogel multifocal. 

Sauflon launched Synergi the first MPS solution specifically for silicone hydrogel lenses.

ClearLab announced Aquasoft Singles contact lens, a new packaging system for soft daily disposable lenses. The packaging allowed the lens to be in a flat pack no more than 1 mm thick and a month's supply to occupy a pack the size of a matchbox. The foil was proprietary and featured a polypropylene spiral to lift the lens and present it to the patient so they merely had to pinch the front surface to lift the lens from the spiral before insertion into the eye. Later launched by Menicon as the Miru lenses

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care launched the 1 Day Acuvue for Astigmatism a combination of the design and stabilisation of the Acuvue Advance for Astigmatism and the etafilcon A material.

2007 CIBAVision launched the world's first daily disposable lens featuring Triple Action Moisturising Technology to act during different parts of the day to increase comfort.  Known as Focus Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus 

J&J Launch 1 Day Acuvue TruEye across UK and Ireland the first daily disposable Silcone Hydrogel lens

Ultravision launched first silicone hydrogel prosthetic lens. 


Mark'ennovy launch Saphir tailor made silicone hydrogel toric

Publication of Contact Lenses; The Story April 2009 The world's first complete history of the development of contact lenses

A Photochromic contact lens developed at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore.

Sauflon launched the first Silicone Hydrogel daily disposable lens available through registered opticians.


J&J launch 1Day Acuvue Moist for Astigmatism

Coopervision launch MiSight in Hong Kong. The first contact lens designed to reduce the progression of myopia in children

An ortho K lens to correct hyperopia has been launched by Jaume Paune of the University Polytechnic of Catalonia

First year report from the 5 year Stabilisation Myopia by Accelerated Reshaping Techniques (SMART) showed that the mean sphere progression for children 8-14 years wearing SiH lenses was 0.37DS. This was statistically significantly greater than for ortho K.

Commemorative plaques unveiled in London for Josef Dallos (sponsored by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists) and George Nissel (sponsored by Cantor and Nissel)

J&J receive FDA approval in the US for "the first and only SiH daily disposable lens in the US" 1-Day Acuvue TruEye.


Sauflon launch the Clariti 1Day Toric September 2011. The first SiH daily disposable toric.

Menicon launch the Miru daily disposable lens in Japan using the new flat pack just 1 mm thick.

The Triggerfish device, made by Swiss based manufacturer Sensimed, a contact lens for monitoring intraocular pressure has completed its first trial in the US.

Contact Lens Optician and historian Tim Bowden was awarded the Otto Wichterle Gold Medal by the Czech Contact lens Society for his services to Contactology.


Ron Hamilton awarded a CBE in the New years Honours list for his services to the contact lens industry as the inventor of daily disposable lenses.

Sauflon launch the Clariti 1 Day Multifocal. The first SiH daily disposable multifocal

B+L Launch Biotrue 1 day hypergel with 78% water with outer surface designed to mimic the lipid layer of the tear film.


Alcon officially launch Dailies Total 1 in the UK on 2/4/13. The first "Water Gradient"SiH daily lens with a 3% water content at the core and 80% on the surface. The launch followed a 10 year development plan and produced by Lightstream.

A US patent has been granted to American manufacturer Innovega for its augmented reality contact lenses. Not only does this lens correct vision it also allows access to the wearers digital media.

Coopervision launch MyDay daily disposable lenses. Stenfilcon A, a so called Smart Silicone, using less raw silicone in the material

Valeant Pharmaceuticals completed the acquisition of Bausch & Lomb in August 2013 for $8.7bn

SynergEyse launch Ultrahealth lenses, the latest hybrid lens for keratoconus and other irregular corneas.

US researchers from Massachusetts Eye and Ear / Harvard Medical School / Boston Children's Hospital / Massachusetts Institute of Technology have launched a contact lens which can release Latanoprost for the treatment of Glaucoma over several weeks or months. The drug is contained in a film added to the periphery of the lens.


Google embarks on a project to test a smart contact lens ability to monitor the glucose levels in the tears of diabetics. The contact lens will have a wireless chip and glucose sensor embed between two layers of lens material capable of testing the glucose levels every second. They will also test the possibility of including an LED as a warning sign.
Researchers, led by Assistant Prof Zhaohui Zhong, at the University of Michigan say night vision contact lenses could be a real possibility. Their work has pioneered a new way to detect light.

Johnson & Johnson launch Acuvue 1 day Define in UK with a limbal defining ring.


(There continue to be revolutionary changes at a near frenzy pace involving gas permeable, extended wear, CAB, cosmetic soft lenses, and many others as we advance in the 21st century)

Tim Bowden is a contact lens optician in practice in Gillingham, Kent, UK. In 2009 he published Contact Lenses; The Story, the first complete history of the development of contact lenses ranging from the very earliest days of the artificial eye makers to the development silicone hydrogel lenses. It also features background on many of the well known research institutions and leading names in contact lens development. See for further details. Tim founded Plaques for Pioneers in 2004 to research, fund and erect commemorative plaques for British Contact Lens Pioneers. He is also a special subject advisor at the Contact Lens Collection at the British Optical Association Museum in London.

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