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Otto Wichterle Biography, Wiki, Age, Career, Contact Lens Invention | Who was Chemist Otto Wichterle? Bio, Wiki

Who was Otto Wichterle?

Otto Wichterle 27 October 1913 – 18 August 1998) was a Czech chemist, best known for his invention of modern soft contact lenses.

With unique doodle, Google pays birthday tributes to Otto Wichterle, inventor of contact lens

With unique doodle, Google pays birthday tributes to Otto Wichterle, inventor of contact lens
With unique doodle, Google pays birthday tributes to Otto Wichterle, inventor of contact lens

Google on Wednesday paid tributes with a unique doodle to Czech chemist Otto Wichterle, who is known to have invented the modern soft contact lens – now used by an estimated 140 million people around the world for their eyesight needs.

Today, i.e. October 27, marks Wichterle’s 108th birth anniversary, an occasion which called for the doodle that, according to Google, would enlighten netizens with fresh insight on the scientist, regardless of whether they themselves are contact lens users.

The Google Doodle, with its unique design, shows Otto Wichterle holding up a single piece of contact lens upon his fingertips, while the light is reflected to form the Google logo in the background, as representative of eyesight.

Otto Wichterle was born October 27, 1913, at Prostĕjov in the Czech Republic (then, Austria-Hungary). As a lover of science from his youth, Wichterle went on to earn his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1936 from the Prague Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT). He taught as a professor at his alma mater during the 1950s while developing an absorbent and transparent gel for eye implants.

In 1961, Wichterle, who wore spectacles himself, produced the very first soft contact lenses with a DIY apparatus made of a child’s erector set, a bicycle light battery, a phonograph motor, and homemade glass tubing and molds. This was the earliest version of the modern contact lenses that are now used.

Wichterle’s genius is also reflected in the fact that he invented the contact lens at his home, where he was refining hydrogel development after political turmoil pushed him out of the ICT. 

While Wichterle is most well-known as the inventor of contact lenses, his innovations also laid the foundation for state-of-the-art medical technologies such as “smart” biomaterials, which are used to restore human connective tissues, and bio-recognizable polymers, which have inspired a new standard for drug administration. As the inventor of countless patents and a lifelong researcher, Wichterle was elected the first President of the Academy of the Czech Republic, following the country’s establishment in 1993.

Wishing Wichterle with the doodle on his 108th birth anniversary, Google said, “Happy birthday, Otto Wichterle—thanks for helping the world see eye to eye!”

Otto Wichterle Biography, Wiki

Otto Wichterle was born on 27 October 1913 in Prostĕjov, the Czech Republic (then, Austria-Hungary). He was a lover of science and earned his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1936 from the Prague Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT).

While teaching there during 1950s, he developed an absorbent and transparent gel for eye implants.

Due to political turmoil, he was pushed out of the ICT. But he still continued his work of refining his hydrogel development at home.

“In 1961, Wichterle (a glasses wearer himself) produced the first soft contact lenses with a DIY apparatus made of a child’s erector set, a bicycle light battery, a phonograph motor, and homemade glass tubing and molds,” reads the Google Doodle blog.

Wichterle also worked on several other patents throughout his life as a researcher. He was elected as the first President of the Academy of the Czech Republic following the country’s establishment in 1993, the blog added.

Other than contact lenses, he also laid the foundation for state-of-the-art medical technologies such as “smart” biomaterials, which are used to restore human connective tissues and bio-recognizable polymers.

Otto Wichterle Biography
Otto Wichterle
Full NameOtto Wichterle
Born27 October 1913
Prostějov, Moravia, Austria-Hungary
Died18 August 1998 (aged 84)
Stražisko, Moravia, Czech Republic
NationalityCzech
Alma materCzech Technical University in Prague

Invention of Contact Lenses

By late 1961 Wichterle succeeded in producing the first four hydrogels contact lenses on a homemade apparatus built using a children’s building kit (Merkur), a bicycle dynamo belonging to one of his sons, and a bell transformer. Wichterle also made all the molds and glass tubing needed to dose them with monomer.

On Christmas afternoon, with the help of his wife Linda, using the machine on his kitchen table, Wichterle finally succeeded. He tried the lenses in his own eyes and although they were the wrong power they were comfortable. Thus, he invented a new way of manufacturing the lenses using a centrifugal casting procedure.

A few days later, he completed his patent application and produced over 100 lenses by spin casting. He built several new prototype machines using Merkur toys with increasing numbers of spindles which required the stronger motor taken from his gramophone.

With these rudimentary devices, in the first four months of 1962, Wichterle and Linda made 5,500 lenses. The early experimental lenses were called Geltakt and the later production lenses Spofalens after the state enterprise SPOFA which manufactured them.

In 1965 National Patent Development Corporation (NPDC) bought the American rights to produce the lenses and then sublicensed the rights to Bausch & Lomb which started to manufacture them in the USA. In 1977 the patents were challenged, mainly by Continuous Curve Contact Lenses and in May 1977 the CSAS sold these patents to avoid any liability if the court case failed. However, Wichterle and NPDC won the court case in 1983.

Other Achievements by Otto Wichterle

Wichterle came to be well-known beyond the frontiers of his country not only through his achievements but also because of his activities in international organizations, chief among which was the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). He took part in the preparations for its Prague symposia in 1957 and 1965, which were much applauded by participants; he had a hand in the inauguration of its fifth, macromolecular, division, of which he was to become the first president, and he gained further credit by combining within it what was for normal administrative purposes the separate fields of pure and applied chemistry.

Wichterle is the author of a large number of studies both great and small as well as several independent books on various aspects of organic, inorganic, and macromolecular chemistry, polymer science, and biomedical materials, while he had an even higher number of patents out for organic synthesis, polymerization, fibers, the synthesis and shaping of biomedical materials, production methods and measuring devices related to biomedical products.

He is the author or co-author of approximately 180 patents and over 200 publications. This was typical of his attitude to scientific research which, he considered, ought to serve society and its requirements by any means possible, without distinction as to “pure” and “applied” science.

In 1970, Wichterle was expelled again from his position in the institute, this time for signing “The Two Thousand Words” — a manifesto asking for the continuation of the democratization process begun in 1968 during the Prague Spring. Punishment by the regime included removing him from his executive positions and making his research more and more difficult mainly by cutting off contacts from abroad and limiting his teaching opportunities. Full recognition did not come until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

In 1990, he was made president of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences till the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and was the honorary president of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic after that. Wichterle was a member of several foreign academies of science, he received many awards and honorary doctorates from several universities.

The asteroid number 3899 was named after Wichterle in 1993. Furthermore, a high school in Ostrava (in the district of Poruba) in the Czech Republic was named after him on September 1, 2006.

On 27 October 2021, Google celebrated Wichterle’s 108th birth anniversary with a doodle on its homepage.

Otto Wichterle FAQ’s

Who was Otto Wichterle?

Otto Wichterle 27 October 1913 – 18 August 1998) was a Czech chemist, best known for his invention of modern soft contact lenses.

What is Otto Wichterle famous for?

Otto Wichterle is famous for the invention of modern soft contact lenses.

When did Otto Wichterle die?

Otto Wichterle died on 18th August 1998 at the age of 85.

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