Most of us think that contact lenses are a modern creation. This is barely true. It was Leonardo da Vinci who, back in 1508, realized that when submerging the head into a bowl full of water, the vision modified.
Later in 1636, following Da Vinci´s idea, René Descartes created a tube with a curvature similar to that of the cornea, filled it with what and introduced into the eye. Over 100 years later, Sir John Frederick Herschell suggested that contact lenses could possibly correct astigmatism, that with a mold of the eye, a crystal of the right shape and dimensions could be handcrafted. He even suggested that corneal irregularities could be treated by putting some transparent gels in a spherical glass capsule placed on top of the cornea to allow a defined vision.
The first contact lens was finally used by Edwin Saemisch, not as a corrective treatment, but as a protective measure for a patient who had undergone an eyelid removal surgery, leaving the cornea permanently exposed. Some years later, in 1888, Adolph Fick, took molds of a mouse eye, created and applied to mice the first contacts. Later on, he took molds from the eyes of dead humans, and it was professor Gaule, one of Fick´s colleagues the first individual who actually tried the lenses. He could only wear them for a couple of hours.
Fick was convinced that contacts would be the solution to correct visual conditions; however, the thick lenses prevented tears from irrigating the cornea and caused irritation and damage.
But, the interesting fact is that he was not only thinking about the corrective possibilities of contacts: the use of cosmetic contact lenses for esthetic purposes was already present in his mind! He proposed creating lenses with a design simulating the anterior segment of the ocular globe for patients suffering from walleye or keratopathies. Did you ever imagine that the amazing colored contact lenses we enjoy today were conceived so long ago?
Scientists kept researching and experimenting with contacts, until finally in the late thirties they started utilizing new translucent plastic polymers, specially methacrylate, in the manufacturing of contact lenses. Those were the initial steps of the rigid contacts which dominated the market until the appearance of hydrogel contact lenses in the sixties. Hydrogel, the so greatly welcomed soft contact lenses were finally approved by the FDA in 1971.
Nowadays, contact lenses are used both to correct visual deficiencies and/or for aesthetic purposes. There are crystalline corrective as well as colored corrective lenses. However, not only individuals with visual impairments can take advantage of colored contacts; the industry of contact lenses has fulfilled the need of those visually healthy individuals that wished to enhance, alter or modify their natural eye color.
This is how anyone can take advantage of soft contacts, whether translucent or opaque, to have the eye color or the brilliant look they always desired. In fact, there are even crazy colored contacts in the most ingenious and weird designs to be used just for fun!