Story Walk: patent

Story Walk: "patent"

So Just Where DID the Contact Lense Come From? by Kathleen Swart Cadle

Anyone who uses contact lenses or who has had a lens implant to replace one clouded by a cataract can thank a native Rochesterian Earnie Swart. He was Lens Product Manager at Bausch and Lomb back in the decade of the 1960's and is the man who first found and then encouraged B&L to purchase the patent for the contact lens in 1965.

The lens was invented by a husband and wife (both doctors) team in Prague, Czechoslovakia. They had given their son a mechano set for Christmas. Then they began playing with the set, spinning plastic and found to their surprise that the result had optical properties. The scientific name for the lens is 'hydrophilic' or 'water-loving.'

A pair of entrepreneurial young men met that Czech couple and took the invention to New York City. That is where in 1965 Earnie Swart saw the lens and brought the idea back to Rochester's Bausch and Lomb and convinced the powers-that-be that the lens would be a sound investment.

Once B&L began making the them, the lenses had to go through clinical trial under the auspices of the FDA. Not until 1972 was the contact lens ready for commercial release. Eventually the 'soft' contact lens evolved from the 'hard' one. These lenses are the ones ophthalmologists slip into the eye to replace lenses that are 'whitened' by cataracts.

Because one fellow had the insight to see the future for lenses that would adhere to the eyeball itself, millions of folks can now see more clearly. Thanks to our Dad, Earnie Swart.