Google’s homepage features a doodle of the Czech scientist Otto Wichterle, inventor of the soft contact lens that revolutionised the optical industry, to celebrate his 108th birth anniversary.

“Are you one of the estimated 140 million people around the world who wears contact lenses? Whether your answer is yes or no, the story of the Czech chemist who invented the soft contact lens—Otto Wichterle—might give you some fresh insight,” wrote google in a doodle blog post describing the doodle and the scientist’s legacy.

Otto Wichterle was born on October 27 Prostĕjov, 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. Later, he taught as a professor at his the same institute during the 1950s while developing an absorbent and transparent gel for eye implants. 

Due to political disturbance, he was pushed out of the institute leading him to continue working on his hydrogel development at home. In 1961, Wichterle, who himself was bespectacled, 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.

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.

Wichterle is known as the inventor of contact lenses but 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.     

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