CONTACT LENS HISTORY
THE OVERSEAS PIONEERS
(1924-1983) was a country optometrist in Stark, Florida, who started making hard
lenses in his garage. In the late
1950s, there were only about six major contact lens laboratories in the USA.
Frontier in Buffalo; The Plastic Contact Lens Company and Breger Muller-Welt
in Chicago; Obrig in Sarasota; Continuous Curve and Solex in California.
Frontier Contact Lenses had been started in Buffalo in 1959 by Allan Isen and
George Sitterlee and they wanted a new outlet in Florida.
Marco had become quite an expert in the manufacture and fitting of lenses
so Frontier Contact Lenses, Florida, started in 1962 as a joint venture with
Frontier, Buffalo, providing technical expertise in the shape of contact lens
technician Jack Sciolino as the laboratory manager.
In 1965 Seymour bought out Isen and Sitterlee and changed the name to
Frontier Contact Lenses Inc.
1966 Marco got together with his friends Don Brucker and Dave Ewell and started
to experiment with better ways of producing soft lenses.
Later on, Marco made his own Hema material using a distillation process
to produce the monomer which was poured into plastic capsules and heated for
polymerisation. The lenses initially
produced by Bausch & Lomb were of indifferent quality and numerous
laboratories wanted to produce their own materials to remain competitive.
Seeking more oxygen, Marco worked with Don Brucker, Dave Ewell, and
George Tsuetaki plus other experts including Patrick Benz, Peter Semone and an
Indian chemist, Pandoran Kamath. Together
they produced a new polymer and gained FDA approval in 1978.
The name of this material was etafilcon A but it was never patented to
make reverse engineering more difficult.
borrowed hugely to finance the sterile facilities and wet room necessary for his
laboratory. Frontier Florida made
the first toric, bi-toric and bifocal lenses and their claims to fame were the
soft toric lens, approved by the FDA and etafilcon A, approved for extended
wear. By the start of the 1980s they
were turning over $3 million per year and were bought by Johnson & Johnson
in 1981. Their expertise and
etafilcon A, together with the production method of Danalens, devised by Michael
Bay of Copenhagen, provided the foundation for a new phenomenon in the contact
lens world of 1988 - ACUVUE.
Marco had taught aviation during the second world war and flew around the USA
extensively to promote his lenses and teach contact lens fitting.
He also started an ophthalmic instrument division, Marco Ophthalmics, now
run by his son David. Sadly, soon
after the Johnson & Johnson take-over Marco's eldest son was lost in a
plane crash off the coast of Florida and Marco spent considerable time trying to
locate the wreckage. He had been
battling cancer for years but with the loss of his son he died in 1983.
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