Did you know that before the age of plastic, contact lenses were made of glass? It’s true! And slightly horrifying!
Inventors were experimenting with glass-based contacts throughout the 19th century and Leonardo Da Vinci is often credited as having been one of the first to imagine some of the ideas behind the contact lens in 1508.
But when a German doctor at the University of Kiel developed his own glass-based contact lens in the late 1920s, the American tech press was intrigued. One of the biggest problems of contacts developed in the 19th century was that you couldn’t really close your eyes. Since humans like to blink, this posed a problem.
Dr L. Heine was said to have improved the contact lens to sit on the eye more comfortably. The future of eyeglasses was promised to be a future without the need for eyeglasses at all — provided you didn’t mind putting glass in your eyes.
From the June 1930 issue of Science and Invention magazine:
Contact eye-glasses that are worn directly on the eye-ball, and that do not interfere with the closing of the eye-lids, have been invented by Privy Councillor Professor Dr. L. Heine, of the University of Kiel. By this invention, the scientist expects to revolutionise opthalmology. He believes that spectacles and eye-glasses will become superfluous.
The thin curved glass is inserted by the patient himself and is practically invisible. Only when viewed from an angle, can the glass be seen. The photograph shows the inventor wearing these eye-glasses, and at the lower left some of the contact glasses for near- and far-sightedness are shown.
When the glass is moistened with a lubricating solution, no pain or discomfort is felt by the wearer. The inventor has not yet informed us what would happen should the wearer of this type of glass be accidentally struck a blow in the eye.
As someone who has found even modern soft plastic contact lenses annoying at the end of a long day, the idea of putting two pieces of glass “moistened with a lubricating solution” on my eyes is truly horrifying.
But I suppose that shows you just how spoiled I really am. Here we are living in a future where you can get your eyes zapped with lasers to restore 20/20 vision and I’m whining about how my eyes are irritated sometimes when I wear contact lenses. I’m the worst. Truly and honestly the worst.
Pictures: Scanned from the June 1930 issue of Science and Invention magazine with the 1930 contacts on the left and Dr L. Heine on the right