History of the Artificial Eye


Concepts Shown:

Evolution of Materials


option: overhead or photocopy of time line.



History: Ancient Times: Silver, gold, and copper were placed into the eye sockets of the deceased Babylon and Egypt. This practice stopped with Roman civilization. 1561: Metal and leather were used to simulate missing eyes. They were tied on to the ears to keep in place. 1752: Implants changed from metal to glass. Glass was easier to shape and form. Glass was determined to be more compatible with orbital tissue. 1835: White bone glass became popular. This kind of glass produced shades and could be tinted with china enameling pigments. 1854: Cryblite glass (sodium aluminum fluoride) is invented. Extremely hard and light. 1881: Vulcanite was invented by B.F. Goodrich (tires). Hard rubber product. Patients complained of weight of implant. 1884: Celluloid (cellulose nitrate) is first used. Deteriorates in socket after a few months. Flammable. One patient set his celluloid nose on fire with his cigar. 1894: Double-walled hollow prosthesis is formed. Called the "reform eye". Rounded edges were more comfortable and caused less irritation. Late 1800's: Bulbus reform, cover shells, and contact lens are invented.

Early 1900's: Velum rubber is invented. It is more pliable than previous vulcanite. Sulfur content of raw rubber was reduced before vulcanization. Drawback: color of material was not natural. 1915: Gelatin-glycerin material is first used. It is pliable, translucent, and can be colored easily. Problem: Material soaked up water so fast that it deteriorated within a few days. World War II: Germany supplied all raw glass material. The government of the United States hired professionals to produce a material to supply victims of the war with artificial eyes. Methyl-methacrylate, a dental acrylic, is used. Unlike glass, it will not shatter when a scratch comes in contact with water. The acrylic eye is very biocompatible and natural in appearance. Present: The majority of all artificial eyes are made from methyl-methacrylate.


Marcia Muller

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