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The Eyes

The eyes are windows on the world. Through the ages, and by various means, people have tried to preserve, correct, or improve their vision. The first eyeglasses, which date to the late 13th century, were two magnifying glass handles riveted together at the end and hung over the nose. Since then, many changes and innovations have been made in the lenses, frames, materials, styles, and uses of eyeglasses and other vision aids.
The past fifty years have witnessed a greater emphasis on occupational safety and other specialized uses of eye wear in sports and leisure activities.

During World War II, the special German glass used to make artificial eyes was in short supply. Working independently, three U.S. Army dentists-Milton S. Wirtz, Stanley F. Erp, and Victor H. Dietz-found a solution in molded plastic. On orders from the Office of the Surgeon General, the three men started the artificial-eye laboratory at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania, and shared a patent for their work. Thousands of servicemen were fitted with plastic eyes.

Although contact lenses existed at the end of the 19th century, their widespread use and popularity developed after World War II. The earlier hard plastic scleral lenses were large and required both a small suction cup for application and fluid under the lens, which reduced vision and increased clouding. Corneal lenses, developed in the late 1940s and 1950s, were much smaller. They fit directly on the cornea and needed no fluids under the lens, so they felt better and could be worn for a longer time.

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