Virtual contact lenses gallery

'Invisible lenses' were a technology which was once expected to spell the death knell for spectacles, but instead served to widen the choice of vision correction devices, with many users choosing to wear both.

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Explore the following pages in this virtual gallery

Early contact glasses

The timeline of contact lenses begins with a false dawn in the early modern period but gathers pace from the early 19th century...

Hard contact lenses

Learn how long you could keep them in...

The Dunscombe lens

With spectacles, instruments and other collectibles it is sometimes the case that they come along with a provenance and the item has more interest as a consequence of who owned it. Tim Bowden, peers deeper into the earliest 'British' contact lens...

Contact lenses - the great Zeiss secret?

The ignored and forgotten story retold again at last. Special Subject Adviser to the Museum on contact lenses, the late Tim Bowden, peers deeper into this early history...


What the Wehrmacht wore.

Soft contact lenses

How the Czechs went soft on us...

Rigid gas permeable lenses

RGPs - the hard but breathable solution...

Oxygen testing

When smoking helped...

Disposable lenses

Now you could throw away your used lenses...

Cosmetic shells and contact lenses

Contact lenses as ocular prostheses.

Contact lens cleaning and soaking fluids

Changing customs re hygiene and disinfection.

Contact lens cases

Store them clean and hygienically.

Pioneers map

This map, drawn by Andrew Gasson FCOptom, shows quite a confined space within western central London. It is remarkable for including the locations of so many developments in British and international contact lens history! If visiting London why not print off the map and take your own walking tour?


Today contact lens practitioners are an inter-professional community, straddling the realms of optometry, ophthalmology and dispensing optics. In many countries contact lens practice is linked with specialism in the cornea and various therapeutic or surgical procedures. For this reason visitors to these pages may also be interested in our separate sections on artificial eyes and intra-ocular lenses.


The Contact Lens Collection pages are brought to you in association with the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) Pioneers project.

The College acknowledges the extensive contribution of Andrew Gasson FCOptom and the late Tim Bowden FBDO, history of contact lens advisers to the museum and the use of their copyright materials.

DISCLAIMER: The inclusion of specific manufacturer's recent products on this historical website should not be taken to mean that the College of Optometrists endorses such products. The College welcomes donations of current innovatory products to include within the museum collection and is grateful to those small and large companies who have already done this.