Contact Lens Pioneer, Adolf Mueller-Welt    

Contact Lens










The preceding pages have set forth some, but not all, of the circumstances surrounding my Father, Adolf Mueller-Welt, of Stuttgart, Germany, Toronto and Windsor, Canada and Grosse Pointe, Michigan. His vision in life was, from the age of 16, to invent a lens that could be inserted on the human eye and thus avoid the appearance created from the need to wear exterior eyeglasses, and to provide the necessary optics to resolve the difficulties in vision caused by the unaided eye. He did this most successfully from that youthful age until his death 52 years later. He pioneered and had patented the process of hand-blown, fluidless, glass scleral lenses, the predecessors to today's contact lenses. No other person had ever accomplished that. There are others who made scleral lenses that required the use of artificial fluid between the lens and the eye. They were known as Haftglasses. When wearing them, even with a chemical solution, they were extremely uncomfortable. In the modern sense, they were not contact lenses. They were a dead end in the evolution of practical contact lenses. Only with the process developed, invented and patented for a fluidless, glass, scleral lens by Adolf Mueller-Welt did the world accept the concept of a socially and physically suitable replacement for the former outer-framed eyeglasses.

In reviewing the history of Adolf Mueller-Welt it is imperative to consider the time frame in which he accomplished his great contribution to science and the self teaching in the field of optics and advanced mathematics that he conquered. He not only taught himself the science of the optic function of the the eye but he also had to teach himself the higher mathematics of trigonometry in order to construct an artificial instrument that would complement the optical organization and function of the human eye.

It did not end there. He had to find and use the materials available to him, such as the types of glass that were available and to use the various types of glass in the most useful  manner of physics and medicine.

Today, it is almost impossible to imagine that while my father was spending his total effort on perfecting a wearable contact lens, Stuttgart was under aerial bombardment by the British Royal Air Force more than 50 horrible nights. Just think how difficult it must have been to stand that strain imposed by such conditions and still make a strong effort to continue in his dedication to perfect his hand-blown, fluidless, scleral, glass contact lenses. Fortunately, he lived through it and the world benefited from his survival and the work that followed in his remaining years. My father died at his work, still trying to improve on what had already been accomplished. Each time one of us puts on a contact lens we should give a reflective moment of honor and remembrance to a dedicated man who made it possible for us to live our lives a little better.



















When the war ended, Stuttgart was occupied by French forces. Our apartment was, as were most other buildings that had not been destroyed, taken over by the victors. Our apartment was used to house French Officers, while enlisted men were assigned to other apartments. The first floor held French Senegalese troops. They were very unsophisticated and quite cruel and destructive. They acted as guards for the building. We were forced to find another place to live.

However, there was a need to get back into our building every once in a while. Shortly before the French forces arrived, my father buried in the dirt-floor celler all of his most valuable tools and equipment needed to make the lenses.After he buried them he broke open three barrels of fermenting Sauerkraut and spread it across the floor. That kept the French from having any interest in that room.

 I would go to the building and tell the French or Senegalese that I was going into the basement for some vegetables. I had a common shopping basket with a cloth over it and as I rushed from the building I would call out "Pomme de terre", "Pomme de terre", the French word for potatoes. It is an experience that is forever etched in my mind. It is a frequent dream that I still have.

 We had to find a way to get the tools out as they were needed from time to time. The most practical scheme was to have one of the daughters try to get through the Senegalese by using a ruse. The French had posted a sign on each living quarters indicating the names and ages of all occupants. Girls of any age were fair game for any purpose that the French or Senegalese wished.* My eldest sister was in that age group and my parents hid her from the French. I was10 and because of lack of food weighed only 39 pounds. In my war-warn clothes I looked much younger. I was chosen as the one to retrieve the hidden goods

There was much very large equipment buried that was too large and heavy for me to retrieve. That equipment was removed by two French civilians who worked for my father. They convinced the French occupiers that my father had treated them extremely well, even going so far as to have them live in the large family house where the lenses were made. The French guards let them remove everything that my father had hidden beneath the Sauerkraut.

* The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindberg, First edition, 1970, page 967