Historical Events  Science
Leonardo Da Vinci

Not the contact lenses we know today

MMDE: Leonardo Da Vinci did not invent contact lenses

Current: Leonardo Da Vinci invented contact lenses

The idea of contact lenses seems like a modern medical advancement. They are used by over 150 million people woldwide.

As it happens, in 1508 none other than Leonardo Da Vinci described the concept in great detail in his "Codex of the eye, Manual D".

They weren't the small modern eye lenses we know today, but the description proves he was perfectly well aware of the properties of light refraction, and the mechanism required to tune it for vision using a contact substance, his case water.

He wasn't doing this to correct faulty vision, but to enhance what the eye could already see, much in the same way a telescope does.

Water bowls

Da Vinci described various ways to achieve the intended results. including putting your head in a bucket of water, or using water filled globes attached to the eyes.

Here is the illustration he made in his Codex manual:

da vinci contact lens 750x291

Ahead of his time again

Helicopters, tanks, the parachute, machine guns and the first robot. Da Vinci (who features in other Mandela Effects) was an endless source of original innovation.

The introduction of contact lenses was a blessing for many people, who until then were forced to change their appearance via the use of spectacles in frames. After Da Vinci's work, Descartes developed it further, via the use of submerging the entire face in water, but still rendered it impractical. The first to be used outside of any head submersion technique was in 1801 when Thomas Young used some water apparatus to fill lenses which were then attached to the eyes. Various idea were developed further, including John Herschel in 1845 and Louis Girard in 1887, it wasn't until Adolf Fick in 1888 did the world see the firs custom glass contact lens that would be recognised as such today. The development of plastics in the 1930's then saw the adoption worldwide, with the ability to customise each to particular individuals taking the concept into the modern era.

The knee-jerk reaction to the idea they were invented by Da Vinci as nonsense comes from the thinking that the are a modern invention, and so would have been as out of place in his time as a smartphone. Then again...