by M.D. Beck
Posted on Tuesday 15th of September 2009
The artificial eye has been around since before the time of Shakespeare, but the quality that's available today is far advanced compared to what has been seen throughout history. Early on, eyes were symbols for many things such as prosperity, and eyes made of jewels were often placed on the dead in Egypt. As time advanced, people began to look for ways to help the living, and there were two types of artificial eye created: one that was worn on the outside of the eyelid and another one that was worn on the inside, much like the current artificial eyes are worn.
However, the process of removing the damaged eye and actually replacing it with a prosthetic one wasn't something that was common at that point in time. The artificial eye was more commonly placed over the top of a damaged eye that had atrophied. Needless to say, these kinds of prosthetic devices did not blend that well and they were very obvious to observers. They were generally, though, more attractive than the damaged eye.
The Germans started experimenting with blown glass and began using it for artificial eyes, which were called 'glass eyes' for a long time. Once they perfected what they were doing they traveled around a lot, making artificial eyes for people who needed them. Many eye doctors bought large numbers of them, and when someone came to them needing an artificial eye, the doctor would pick one out that was the closest fit and color, and that's what the patient would receive. People who wanted a custom-made eye would have to go to a large hub like New York City and pay a lot more money for their prosthesis.
Many people still refer to any artificial eye with the term 'glass eye,' although it's technically incorrect now. Today's artificial eyes are made of plastic, instead of glass. The changeover came about around the Second World War because the glass and glass blowers were needed elsewhere. They also stopped traveling around from Germany to the United States and other places, so people who wanted artificial eyes had to do without until something else was created.
Today's artificial eyes are made from a plastic compound and they are very durable. They don't break like an actual glass eye can, and they look much more realistic. Because they fit the patient better and are actually placed in the socket snugly, they do have some movement. The level of movement won't be the same as an actual eye, but it will be enough to simulate a real eye most of the time. The color is also much closer to an actual eye, and even if a person has a very unique color to his or her eye, that color can be matched.
It's clear that artificial eyes have come a long way since Shakespeare's time, and there are no accurate records of how far before that time some kind of artificial eye would have been available or who originally came up with the idea. That part of the story still remains shrouded in mystery.
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