Did You Know: The Contact Lens Was Created in Czech Republic

Everyone likes to brag about something amazing their country invented (Aussies claim they were the first to make note pads, yeah right!), and in the Czech Republic that nifty invention comes in the shape of the good old contact lens. Back in 1961 the soft contact lens was invented by a Czech chemist called Professor Otto Wichterle.

The idea of sticking your finger in your eye might not seem like the nicest way to start your day, but over 25 million people do so instead of wearing glasses, all thanks to Professor Wichterle! 

 The Professor developed a transparent hydrofoil plastic with his assistant named “hydroxyethylmethacrylate” (catchy, right?), which was made largely of water, meaning it was soft and pliable when wet, but would become hard when dry. This was a good start to the contact lenses we know today, however their design wasn’t immediately ready for market as the fibres available in the day provided poor optical quality and other such issues, so it was back to the drawing board. 

It was Christmas in 1961 that Wichterle hit the jackpot when he constructed a lens producing machine using his son’s toy building set and a small motor from a bike. It was with this nifty creation that the first gel contact lens was born.

 The Czech government then sold the patent to an American entrepreneur and the soft contact lenses hit the markets, meaning no more four-eyes in sight... but everything else in sight was crystal clear and comfortable. Nice work Otto!

 Oh, and the Czechs also invented the sugar lump, but that’s a whole other story….

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