Newton K. Wesley
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Newton K. (Uyesugi) Wesley (October 1, 1917 – July 21, 2011) was an optometrist and an early pioneer of the contact lens. Wesley was a partner with George Jessen in the development and advancement of contact lens. Together they founded the Wesley-Jessen Corporation as well as the National Eye Research Foundation. Wesley-Jessen was acquired by Schering Plough in 1980 then and CIBA Vision by 2001.
Working in an Uptown basement, Dr. Newton K. Wesley helped craft a solution to his deteriorating vision: Comfortable contact lenses that could be worn for long periods. Considered a pioneer in the contact lens industry, the Chicago-based Dr. Wesley went on to become one of the leading developers and manufacturers of contact lenses, paving the way for the modern contacts we know today.
Born Newton Uyesugi to Japanese-immigrant parents in Westport, Oregon, Wesley thrived in school and managed to graduate from high school at 16. He then enrolled at the North Pacific College of Optometry in Portland, Oregon, in 1925. By the age of 22, he had an optometry practice in Portland. He had also begun to operate his alma mater, what is known now as Pacific University College of Optometry. Then during World War II he was forced to relocate to Richmond, Indiana, due to Executive Order 9066.
In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago Dr. Wesley began researching a solution to his vision problems. The optometrist suffered from keratoconus, a degenerative disease of the cornea that affects vision, and had been told by experts that he’d likely lose his sight. He knew that contact lenses helped him see, but the lenses available in the 1940s couldn’t be worn for long periods. So Dr. Wesley and his partner, George Jessen, began to research and develop a new type.
Wesley and Jessen eventually developed the plastic lenses known as rigid contact lenses. The lens fit over just the cornea, unlike its predecessor, which also rested on the sclera (the white area), said Neil Hodur, a professor at the Illinois College of Optometry and a colleague and friend of Dr. Wesley’s. The end product was lenses that were smaller, thinner and longer-wearing, said Alfred Rosenbloom, a former dean and president of the Illinois College of Optometry