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Episode notes

The Contact Lens. The humble Contact Lens. Oh boy, do we have a rip-roaring episode for you about the humble contact lens.

Nazi villains, arrests by secret police, chance encounters on trains and fear of Soviet invasion. And in the middle of it all, an unlikely hero: a Czech chemist called Otto Wichterle.

On Christmas Eve 1961, Otto Wichterle created the world’s first soft contact lens at his kitchen table with the help of his son’s toy mechanics set.

Who was Otto?

How did he manage to create the world’s first contact lens behind the Iron Curtain, despite political opposition?

Why is his story not better known?

Our guest today, Riikka Palonkorpi, works at the University of the Arts in Helsinki and wrote her PhD thesis on Otto Wichterle back in 2012. As part of her research, Riikka met Otto’s wife and visited their home, so naturally is the perfect person to help us answer these questions as we unravel Otto’s story.

The episode was produced by Freddy Chick.

The editor was Anisha Deva.

The senior producer was Charlotte Long.

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