By Michael Hutton
Ortho-k optician Tim Bowden who owns and runs a family practice in Gillingham, Kent which specialises in contact lens fitting has demonstrated that his talents extend beyond the consulting room by researching the full history of contact lenses. He has subsequently written up the research in a book called "Contact Lenses: The Story" which has been hailed by leading figures in the optical world as being the first comprehensive history of contact lenses. Whilst most people think of contact lenses as a relatively new development from the latter part of the twentieth century, Tim's research demonstrated that the real history started almost 500 years ago when the first glass lenses were devised. Now contact lenses are a multi-billion dollar global business and enable many types of vision defect to be corrected as well as providing wearers with freedom from spectacles.
Tim became interested in contact lenses over thirty years ago when an optician friend co-opted his astigmatic eyes as a contact lens case study and suitably impressed by that first encounter he has worn a variety of different types of lenses and specialised in contact lens fitting ever since. His initial concept for the book was to look at the history of the disposable lens but it soon became apparent that this could not be done without looking at early generations of soft lenses prior to disposables and likewise, the impact of soft lenses only makes sense when compared to the hard lenses that preceded soft lenses. Consequently, this experienced ortho-k optician soon found himself immersed in a huge collection of historical works, scientific papers and journal articles.
Tim started this research in 2001 and subsequently pursued it through over 47,000 miles of air travel, 12,000 miles by car and 227 personal interviews, while the acknowledgements note 316 further important individuals who contributed to the research by mail, email and telephone interview. The research also spawned the Contact Lens Collection at the British Optical Association museum in London, co-founded with Andrew Gasson, which is the only specialist contact lens collection in the world that is open to the public. Now Tim's extensive knowledge of contact lenses is being put to good use through his Gillingham practice where his expertise as an ortho-k optician enables short-sighted individuals to benefit from a unique new treatment which involves contact lenses being worn only while sleeping then providing clear natural vision all day long after removal each morning.
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