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An exhibit dedicated to the life and works of one of the most distinguished Czech scientist. Come learn more about him! Open: December 2 - 31, 2011. FREE ENTRY.

Only few Czech scientists have enjoyed such renown and popularity, both at home and abroad, like Professor Otto Wichterle. He is best known for his invention of the contact lens. His unusual story and unbelievable contributions to science are great inspirations and remain the subject of well-deserved attention.

This year, we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his invention of the soft, water-permeable contact lens, and, in 2013, what would have been the Professor’s 100th birthday. The Czech Centre decided to use these two anniversaries to create an exhibition that will celebrate and teach about his life, his contributions, and his significance, not only to the world of science, but to everyday, practical life. The exhibition was prepared in cooperation with the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. After the Prague exhibition, it will be featured at Czech Centres abroad.

Otto Wichterle, the Czech chemist and inventor, was born in 1913 in Prostějov and died in 1998 in Stražisek. He was a professor at the Chemical Technology College in Prague and president of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1989-1992. He was the founder and director until 1970 of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. While working there, he focused, among other things, on the chemistry and technological uses of macromolecular materials, primarily water-permeable gels and bio-medicinal materials. In 1956 he invented the system for creating contact lenses out of water-based gels and he assembled the first “contact-lens machine” on Christmas Eve 1961 at his home using a Merkur modeling kit for children and a bicycle dynamo. The invention of the contact lens is the best known of his one hundred and fifty patents.

The story of Professor Wichterle is not only the story of an arduous scientist, but also the story of a fight against human stupidity, rebellion against aggressive ideologies and of the ability to maintain personal honor. His success was not only the product of accident or his position within society - it was the result of diligence and the ability to maintain an outlook of immense patience.


Radka Labendz
Czech Centre Prague
T: 777 055 040
E: labendz@czech.cz