Scroll through for a quick history lesson on when some of the common devices used for vision care were invented.
Oct 08, 2018
Timeline of Vision Care
As we celebrate World Sight Day, 2018, let’s take a look back at historical moments that have shaped the state of eye care today. They’ll give you background on the history of eye care and some of the equipment and procedures used in ophthalmologists’ and optometrists’ offices throughout the world.
Key Dates in the History of Vision Care
440 BCE The Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about a condition he called “glaukos” to describe blindness associated with advancing age. He might have been referring to the effects of glaucoma or cataracts.1
610 Chao Yuanfang, imperial physician of the Sui Dynasty, published the first Chinese medical text to specifically list eye diseases.2,3
1286 Eyeglasses, also known as spectacles, first appeared in northern Italy. There’s a legend saying eyeglasses were invented by Salvino d’Armato degli Armati based on an inscription on his tombstone: “Here lies Salvino d’Armato degli Armati, of Florence, the inventor of spectacles.”4,5
1784 Benjamin Franklin asks his optician to cut his distance lenses in half, then cut his reading lenses in half, then join the two. This improvisation led to the first pair of bifocals.6
1850 Hermann von Helmholtz invents the ophthalmoscope, which enables him to see the inside of a living eye. Physicians and eye doctors still use this instrument as part of a routine eye exam.7
1857 Albrecht von Graefe, the founder of modern ophthalmology, reports on his use of iridectomy (surgery to remove part of the iris) to lower intraocular pressure. This became an important treatment for glaucoma. Von Graefe also invented a special knife to remove cataracts.8
1862 Dutch professor Hermann Snellen develops the now ubiquitous eye chart to measure visual acuity.9
1916 Shinobu Ishihara hand paints in water color and publishes his color vision tests. Today this is a staple of an eye exam.10,11
1929 Dr. Jules Gonin receives international acclaim for his ignipuncture procedure, which revolutionizes treating detached retinas, previously considered incurable.12
1950 Dr. Harold Ridley performed the first intraocular lens implant (IOL) to treat cataracts. Today, more than 14 million people worldwide have their vision restored with the Ridley-cataract-IOL-operation every year.13
1959 Czech chemists Otto Wichterle and Drasoslav Lim produce the world’s first pair of hydrophilic (water loving) soft contact lenses.14,15
1968 U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the National Eye Institute, which promotes government-funded research into vision disorders and eye diseases.16
1987 Marguerite McDonald, MD, first uses an excimer laser to perform photorefractive keratectomy on humans. This surgery corrects myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism.17,18,19,20,21
1990 Drs. Lucio Buratto and Ioannis Pallikaris develop LASIK surgery, a procedure using a laser to correct common vision problems and reduce the need for prescription eyeglasses and/or contact lenses.22,23
2015 William Campbell and Satoshi Omura received one half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work leading to a therapy for onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, a major public health problem in some of the world’s poorest countries.24,25,26
Continuing the Tradition of Eye Care
As you can see, eye care has a colorful past filled with professionals dedicated to helping people see better. At Alcon, we continue this noble tradition, not only on World Sight Day, 2018, but every day.