by Fenella Saunders
Rock crystal lenses from Rome, Greece, and the Middle East date back to 3000 B.C., although historians debate whether they were used to aid vision or start fires. The Roman philosopher Seneca, who died in A.D. 65, used a water-filled glass globe to magnify text. Around A.D. 1000, monks started using polished "reading stones" the same way. The first dual lenses mounted in frames appeared about 1285 in Italy. Lenses that correct nearsightedness were probably the invention of Nicholas of Cusa, a German philosopher, in the mid-1400s. In 1887 German physiologist Adolf Fick crafted the first glass contact lens. American optician Kevin Tuohy followed with the hard-plastic contact lens in 1948, and Czech chemist Otto Wichterle invented soft contacts in 1961. Now Ohio State researchers have developed lenses worn only at night that temporarily reshape the cornea.