I take, out of a small botanical microscope, a double convex lens, of eight tenths radius and focal distance, fixed in a socket one fifth of an inch in depth; securing its edges with wax, I drop into the socket a little water, nearly cold, till three-fourths full, and then apply it to my eye, so that the cornea enters half way into it, and it is every where in contact with the water.
My eye immediately becomes presbyopic, and the refractive power of the lens, which is reduced by water to a focal length of about 16 tenths, is not sufficient to supply the place of the cornea, rendered inefficacious by the intervention of the water; but the addition of another lens, of five inches and a half focus, restores my eye to its natural state, and somewhat more., published in two volumes, 1807. Young discovered both that the cause of astigmatism and the fact that the cornea was not involved in accommodation.
At some point before his death (1516) but certainly in one of his later works investigating dioptrics and catadioptrics in the tradition of the eastern scholar Alhazen and the Medieval English monk Roger Bacon (which Leonardo began no earlier than 1505) he described and illustrated a potential experiment (almost certainly never performed) in which a man immerses his face in a spherical glass bowl of water and is able to see his own shoulders.
The illustration to the right is taken from that work.
In other words this would be a completely impractical bioptic contact lens.
It is doubtful however that the unit could have been hermetically sealed as required and the participant in the experiment would have been at risk of drowning because it covered the whole face.Heitz concludes that of the three relevant sources, two in fact illustrate something quite different, but that the third source (ironically the one least often cited) can be interpreted as alluding unintentionally to a principle that others would later develop, even if Leonardo certainly did not.Nothing in Leonardo’s notes relates to the use of contact lenses for optical correction but even in the 1880s when the modern history of contact lenses (in a practical, not just a theoretical sense) had indisputedly begun, the first contact shells were cosmetic in purpose and nothing to do with optical correction either, so that's not necessarily a problem.In this we certainly seem to be encountering the concept of corneal neutralisation.The length of the tube was adjustable so the device, if it had ever been made, would have had some historical parallel with the telescope but not so much with contact lenses since it was an afocal device and was not worn under the eyelids but had to be held in place by constant external pressure.If only he had concentrated upon the corneal lens idea he might have invented contact lenses far sooner than they were.Both a physician and a physicist he embodied the unique link between ophthalmologists and optometrists to be detected subsequently in this branch of optics.We do know that Leonardo was interested in the dioptrics of refraction in liquids and lenses as well as the catadioptrics of reflections in spherical mirrors.This rightfully entitles him to a place in the history of ophthalmic optics.Franz Resisinger, 1824 In Germany in 1824 Franz Reisinger (1787-1855) mentioned the technique of corneal grafting suggesting its potential application from animal donor to human recipient.He also coined the term ' Keratoplasty' but the surgical solution was to be delayed for the time being.