ADOLF WILHELM MUELLER-WELT (1904-1972)
PIONEER DEVELOPER OF THE FIRST CONTACT LENS
THAT WOULD FLOAT, UNAIDED, ON THE HUMAN EYE.
In 1927, in Stuttgart, Germany, Adolf Mueller-Welt, my father, and scion of generations of artificial glass eye makers produced the first commercially viable and marketable hand-blown, fluidless, glass scleral contact lens. Prior to that, many academics and others had theorized about the possibility of contact lenses but their work and ideas never developed into a meaningful product for mass use.
Our family's tradition was in Lauscha, Thueringen, Germany, a place that to this day remains the center of the finest work in hand-blown glass. Eventually, Adolf's father moved the family business to Wiesbaden and later to Stuttgart.The business was located in a portion of the family home. To this day, that house still is used by a nephew of Adolf as the site of his artificial eye business. There, customers came and were seated beside one of the Mueller-Welt men who blew from a a glass tubing an artificial eye that exactly matched the shape and color strains of the patient's good eye.The Mueller-Welts were acknowledged to be the finest artificial glass eye makers in Germany. It was this talent in eye making that would be the foundation for Adolf's perfection of the fluidless, glass, scleral contact lens.
Adolf had read some of the theory of the possibility of glass, contact eyelenses, and he worked with several of the foremost academicians to resolve problems inhibiting the perfection of a hand-blown, scleral glass contact lens. Among those with whom he worked and sought advice were Professors, Heine, Siegrist, Sattler, and Stock, as well as with nearly every University eye clinic in Germany and other European countries.
Adolf was 24 at the time and did his work perfecting the lenses without the benefit of any formal education and without the financial support of his family who thought that his idea of blowing thin lenses that could have the neccessary visual correction to improve eyesight was not practicable. Fortunately, his wife, Ruth Raisig, believed in him and used her inheritance from her banker father to further Adolf's dream and helped him become a true pioneer in the infancy of contact lenses. Earlier, there had been numerous theorists who pondered the idea of contact lenses but none of them followed through to the stage of actually making and marketing a safe and revolutionary way of correcting defects in visual acuity without the obvious need for visible eyeglasses.
For Adolf Mueller-Welt , there was more to be done than merely to correct a visual defect. He went on to provide real help to people who had a cataract eye problem that could be aided by use of his fluidles, glass scleral lenses. His work prospered greatly from that first day in 1928, the year in which he applied for a patent and which was approved as patent DRP.Nr. 553843 in 1932.
During World War Two, Adolf and his wife Ruth traveled throughout Germany and German occupied Europe fitting glass scleral lenses to German officers who, in those years, were not allowed to wear eyeglasses while in uniform. Adolf and Ruth would take with them cases of lenses numbering in the tens of thousands and having a sufficient quantity of all practical corrections to meet any need. This contribution to his country has been totally ignored by people in the contact lens business who profess to record the history of contact lenses. For reasons unknow or unspoken, Adolf Mueller-Welt's unique place in history has been completely submerged and almost entirely ignored worldwide.This has to be corrected in the world of contact lens organizations, academia and literature.
While now in other hands, his company still prospers in Stuttgart under his name. Most likely, it is the longest, continuous contact lens business in the world.
Following the war, plastic replaced glass as the material used for contact lenses. In the Mueller-Welt company, plexiglass was pressed into dies that were made for the needed optical power. All of the machinery needed to do that had to be designed and made at the Mueller-Welt company. At that time, 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 lenses were Herr Bordt from Frankfurt, Herr 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.