Contact Lens Pioneer, Adolf Mueller-Welt    

Contact Lens










Following the war, plastic replaced glass as the material used for contact lenses. In the Mueller-Welt company, Plexiglas was pressed into dies some of which I, Brigitte, still have, that individually were made for any needed optical power. All of the machinery needed to do that had to be designed and made at the Mueller-Welt company.

Hundreds of soldiers of the Allied armies came to the Mueller-Welt company to be fitted with the new modern way to correct vision without having to wear eyeglasses. The contact lens had taken on a new world of importance. Soon it would spread to other countries of the world.

At that same time, young German and foreign opticians became interested in the new wave of vision correction. Among the first to come to Mueller-Welt to be trained in fitting contact tenses were Herr Bordt from Frankfurt, Mr.Morisson from Holland and Mr. Hoffmannbeck from South America. Also, a young former soldier named Soehnges came to the company and asked to be trained in the process of making and fitting contact lenses. Prior to that, Soehnges had never made contact lenses, but had only fitted a few lenses obtained from Zeiss. Herr Soehnges later left Mueller-Welt to start his own company in Munich, a company that later was bought by Cooper Vision.  During the occupation of Germany, an American lawyer, Joseph L. Breger, who was with the War Crimes Commission, made himself known to Adolf Mueller-Welt and encouraged Adolf to take his knowledge to America where there was certain to be a bountiful market for contact lenses. Breger offered to sponser Adolf in this effort and for his effort was made a partner in the venture that eventually began in Toronto, Canada. Because Adolf was a German and not a refugee he could not enter The United States. He went to Canada in 1949 and in partnership with Breger, who had his law practice in Chicago, began to produce contact lenses for the Canadian and American market. In the partnership with Breger was an arrangement for Adolf Mueller-Welt to assist Breger with all the technical knowledge and instruments to allow Breger to produce Mueller-Welt lenses in a duplicate plant in Chicago, That was a major business misstep byAdolf Mueller-Welt. In so doing he did, in one action, transfer all of his lifelong expertise to Breger, and that eventually allowed Breger to penetrate the American market at a time when the Mueller- Welt system of fluidless scleral lenses were singularly unique. It wasn't long after that when Breger sued Adolf in a court in Chicago and gained the right to the name and optical expertise of the name Mueller-Welt in The United States of America. It is my opinion that the Breger action was an intent from the time he engratiated himself to my father in Stuttgart where Breger was an American lawyer with the War Crimes Commission in Germany.

  In a Dow Corning Prospectus of March 25, 1975, describing the company's issuing a bond debenture, there is a note that Dow Corning had. "In April of 1972, the Company acquired all of the outstanding capital stock of Mueller-Welt Contact Lenses Inc. ("Mueller-Welt") The acquisition was recorded as an aggregate of $7,000,000. (This was the Breger American company)*

Adolf had left his busines in Stuttgart in the able hands of his optical engineer, Herr Herman Polte a former optical scientist with Zeiss. Work in Canada was very difficult for Adolf. He had to arrange for his wife and three young daughters to follow him so that a somewhat normal existence could be established. All was not easy however. The family lived in a rented house in Toronto and used the basement as a workshop for making the lenses.The legal entanglement with Breger was a severe financial blow that did not help matters. The two older daughters were the only help that Adolf had at that time. One, the oldest, never entered school in Canada The youngest child, Suse, was only four years old at the time. Brigitte, went to school and after school worked in the basement busines often until or after midnight. Brigitte continued her high school education, graduating from Grosse Pointe High School in   1955.

Earlier this year, I learned from Mr. Glenn Campbell, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Optometrists that Waterloo University has some of my father's plastic lenses in its collection. I intend to respect that honor by donating to Warterloo University some of my father's wartime, handblown, glass, scleral lenses for its collection. On September 22, 1950 while Adolf still was in Canada, The Chicago College of Optometry bestowed upon him the degree of "Doctor of Ocular Science."

While still in Canada, Adolf found a new partner in a Detroit optometrist named Donald L. Golden, and they formed a very successful partnership that eventually became International Lens Laboratories in Detroit, Michigan. Fortunately, United States immigration laws changed and allowed Adolf and his family to migrate to The United States. The Mueller-Welt family took up residence in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where they became American citizens.  The manufacturing facility and fitting institute were in Detroit. By a mutual and friendly agreement, Dr.Golden took himself out of the business in 1957 to devote full time to his optometry business. It would be very difficult to overemphasize the value of what Dr. Golden did in helping my father begin and advance his contact lens business in the United States. He deserves much praise and admiration for his helpfullness.

* Parenthesis mine.









In today's literature about contact lenses, little distinction is made between the real pioneers, men who used their native talents and ambitions to revolutionize the manner in which defective vision was corrected, and those who either were taught the techniques or simply were businessmen with little or no knowledge of optics as they pertained to eyewear. It is like ignoring the Wright brothers, men who actually applied the mechanical principles with which they were involved in their bicycle business and focusing attention to those in the field of academics, those who presented technical papers but never developed a successful contact lens or perpetuated a business in contact lenses. While they may deserve a footnote in the history they are not pioneers in the true sense. Pioneers are people who do something from the beginning and see it through to a meaningful contribution to mankind. It is especially disturbing to read in the Internet page of the University of Missouri CONTACT LENS HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS that men such as Leonardo Da Vinci, and Rene Descartes are accorded high honors for merely describing the eventual development of wearable contact lenses. While they deserve the right to fame for other accomplishments and theories they are misplaced in the history of contact lenses.

A. Muller (1887) a glassblower from Wiesbaden was simply that. He did not produce a single practical optical lens.

Eugen Fick, a physician, was unsuccessful in creating anything but clumsy lenses that were extremely heavy and impractical for sustained production. He claimed to make molds of human eyes, but later was exposed as using human cadavers eyes.

Joseph Dallos is a special case. He was born and educated in Hungary and emigrated to England in the 1930s. He claims to have made molds of human eyes and then used those molds to form scleral lenses from glass. There is no record of how he got the glass into the molds.  He was a worker in eye clinics and could only produce two lenses a week on the weekends. He did nothing but copy the idea of a fluidless lens that my father had already produced in 1927 and had patented before Dallos used the information in the patent to make his lenses.

The comment that my father, Adolf Mueller-Welt, was in business in The United States with Joseph Breger, a laywer, is patently false. Mr. Breger used a legal device to attain sole use of my father's name in The United States while my father was making contact lenses in Canada in a partnership with Breger wherein my father provided all of the technical knowledge and produced all of the lenses without any physical help from Breger. Breger was, at best, a lawyer and a businessman, but he certainly was not a person who deserves to be included in the CONTACT LENS HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS, as published by the University of Missouri.

While still in Canada, Adolf found a new partner in a Detroit, an optometrist named Donald L. Golden. They formed a very successful partnership that eventually became International Lens Laboratories in Detroit, Michigan . For reasons that are not clear, the University of Missouri fails to include this prominent and evolutionary firm in its listing of Major (contact lens)* Laboratories.

 * Insertion is mine.