Contact lenses through time

Andrew King traces the origins of contact lenses from antiquity to the pioneering John Herschel

John Herschel

The millions of contact lens wearers worldwide may be somewhat surprised to learn that the history of this mode of optical correction has its origins in antiquity, involving a process that has been one of evolution, not single invention, at times attracting the attention of some of the finest thinkers, scientists and inventors of their times.

Contact lenses alter the refractive status of the eye by neutralising the power of the human cornea. This can be achieved, for example, by placing a medium such as water in front of the eye. It will probably never be known when, or how, this was first realised.

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