Czech chemist Otto Wichterle who invented contact lenses honoured in Google Doodle

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On his 108th birthday, Google’s Wednesday doodle honors the life and legacy of Otto Wicherle, the Czech chemist who invented the soft contact lens.

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Holding the lens on the tip of his finger, the doodle depicts Wichterle wearing glass looking at his revolutionary invention – now being used by an estimated 140 million people worldwide.

“Happy birthday, Otto Wichler—thank you for helping the world see each other!” Google on Wednesday asked for some new insights into his life and to recognize his work in the field of science.


He was born in 1913 in Prostejov, which later became Czechoslovakia, and grew up with a passion for science from a very young age and later made many cutting-edge inventions.

Wicherle, the son of a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, received his doctorate in organic chemistry from the Prague Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in 1936.

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But when it was closed in 1939 due to political turmoil under German rule, he spent some time in Bata shoe manufacturing business. There he invented a nylon fiber that is often employed for industrial use.

He was briefly imprisoned by the German Gestapo from 1942 to 1943.

After the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, he became professor of macromolecular chemistry at his alma mater in Prague and continued his work to develop an absorbent and transparent gel for eye implants.

After about 10 years of research work in this, he started manufacturing hydrophilic soft contact lenses. He continued to refine his hydrogel development at home and created the first soft contact lens with a child’s erector set, a bicycle light battery, a phonograph motor, and DIY tools made from homemade glass tubing and molds.

He was the author and lifelong researcher of nearly 200 patents in organic chemistry, plastics and biomaterials. During his lifetime, he received an incredible number of awards and honors.

They also laid the foundation for technologies such as “smart” biomaterials, found in pacemakers, heart valves, orthopedic devices and bio-identifiable polymers, that have inspired a new standard for drug administration.


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