The Man Who Developed Soft Contacts Never Wore Them

Otto Wichterle stuck with glasses until his death in 1998.

Before his resistance to Soviet control cost him his job as dean of Prague's Institute for Chemical Technology, Czech scientist Otto Wichterle invented a water-loving polymer that was thin and transparent enough to be used as soft contact lenses. But the lenses' edges were too jagged for practical use. Wichterle believed that the problem was not the material but the method. In 1961, he built a machine from household bits and pieces that solved the problem, and eventually the Czech government sold the patent on his invention to an American entrepreneur. Even after his soft lenses were being used by millions of people, Wichterle continued to wear glasses until his death in 1998.

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