CONTACT LENS HISTORY

THE OVERSEAS PIONEERS

Ernest Mullen

 

Ernest Mullen heard about contact lenses from an article about Feinbloom in 1937.  Mullen, an engineer, had dreamed about correcting vision by the use of a lens directly on the eye.  He was fitted with Zeiss and Feinbloom lenses by Feinbloom but was dissatisfied with them, wondering why glass was used at all.  Mullen set up an experimental laboratory in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1938.  He contacted Obrig, the chief US exponent of Zeiss moulded lenses and the impression technique.  With the assistance of Dr E. D. Tillyer of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mullen produced plastic duplicates of the Zeiss lenses.  He discovered that the tear layer under the optic section could be calculated as a liquid lens and developed a semi-finished technique.  The semi-finished blank was put on the eye to check for fit and also for vision then returned to the laboratory for power correction.  Mullen attributed his success to a total lack of optical knowledge!  Obrig and Mullen's set up the Mullen-Obrig Laboratory in Boston.  The association did not last long with the Obrig Laboratory Inc. being set up with Philip Salvatori in New York in 1939, later moving to Sarasota in Florida.

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