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Notable figures in eye care - Drahoslav Lím

Drahoslav Lím (1925 – 2003) 

Drahoslav Lím was a notable Czech chemist and scientist born on the 30th of September 1925 in the former Czechoslovakia (now Czechia). He pursued his education at the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague, receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry. Following his degree, he continued at the university professionally under the guidance of Otto Wichterle.

Researching as a team, they invented the first hydrogel plastic (pHEMA) that would later become the base material for the first soft contact lens. Much like his mentor Wichterle, Lím's politics fell out of favour with the Communist Czech government and funding for his scientific experiments was often withheld. This led Lím to Northern California, where he could continue his research on polymers alongside Nobel Prize winner Paul Flory at Stanford University.

Following a short stay in the States, Lím returned to Czechoslovakia, but much of the same political headwinds were against him, and he was forbidden to work in his chosen field of chemistry. He applied for emigration to the United States and was ultimately granted it in 1979. Lím returned to California, this time settling in San Diego and began his professorship at the University of California, San Diego.

He founded the Revlon Materials Research Center and continued his work on bioplastics – even applying for and receiving patents up until his death on the 22nd of August 2003 in San Diego, USA.

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Drahoslav Lím's contributions to eye care

Drahoslav Lím's expertise in chemistry and his work on Otto Wichterle's team enabled him to co-create the groundbreaking material pHEMA – polyhydroxyethyl methacrylate. This finding was a significant stepping stone in the development of the first soft contact lens. He devoted a large part of his career to improving optical issues through scientific advancements, particularly contact lenses, by improving biomaterials that make them more comfortable to wear.

Other notable achievements of Drahoslav Lím 

Drahoslav Lím won numerous awards for his research throughout his career. In particular, he is renowned for his studies on biomaterials and polymers, first published in the famous scientific journal – Nature. This is where Lím and Wichterle share their initial findings on hydrogel technology with the scientific community. 

  • Author of numerous scientific publications - his most important about biomaterials 
  • Recipient of more than 150 patents 
  • Created plastics involved in the construction of artificial kidneys 
  • Founder of the Revlon Materials Research Center

Final word  

Although often overshadowed by his colleague Otto Wichterle when discussing the creation of the first soft contact lenses. Drahoslav Lím's work and research were instrumental in the breakthrough biotechnology (pHEMA), which led to the invention of the first hydrogel contact lens.  

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