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Diversity in STEM

3 Eye-Opening Inventions and the Bright Minds Behind Them

January is National Eye Care Month, a time dedicated to the importance of vision health. At the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we have the honor of celebrating hundreds of legendary inventors every day, including those whose awesome innovations have contributed to the field of eye care. Keep reading to uncover three eye-opening inventions and learn about the inspiring Hall of Famers who brought them to life!


Laserphaco Cataract Surgery

Hall of Famer Dr. Patricia Bath invented laserphaco, a minimally invasive device and technique to remove cataracts. All steps of the process, from making the incision through destroying the lens and removing the fractured pieces, were addressed by her invention, which she conceived in 1981 and patented in 1988. The first Black woman physician to receive a medical patent, Bath has made a lasting impact on the lives of many, not only by developing laserphaco but also by establishing the discipline of community ophthalmology and co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which is designed to protect, preserve and restore sight through education, community service, research and eye care services.


Soft Contact Lens

Working at his kitchen table in 1961, Hall of Famer Otto Wichterle created the soft contact lens and a method to manufacture it. He developed a homemade device and used it to turn a transparent polymer gel called HEMA into soft, pliable lenses. With the support of his wife, a doctor, Wichterle produced 5,500 lenses within five months. Previously, options for contacts included glass or hard plastic lenses, which were more expensive, had a shorter wear time and tended to be less comfortable than Wichterle’s soft contacts. Today, more than 100 million people use contact lenses to improve their vision.


Excimer Laser Surgery

Hall of Famers Rangaswamy Srinivasan, James Wynne and Samuel Blum invented excimer laser surgery. After observing the effects of an ultraviolet excimer laser on biological materials, they realized the laser could make clean, precise cuts ideal for delicate surgeries like those involving the eye. Their work led to the common procedure we know today as LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) eye surgery. More than 10 million people in the United States alone have undergone LASIK surgery to improve their vision through the correction of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.


Keep Exploring

We encourage you to visit our website to learn about more inspiring Hall of Famers and innovations that have improved our health and well-being.

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