Invisible Vision

The hidden story of Dr. Newton K. Wesley, American contact lens pioneer
By Roy Wesley

As recently as 1940, contact lenses did not exist for Americans. This is the hidden story of the man who brought them into existence, trained doctors and opticians to fix them, and developed the country’s largest contact lens manufacturing company that started the industry. Nobody knows his name or background. Surprise 1: he was born to Japanese immigrant parents who arrived at the turn of the 19th century. Surprise 2: his last name was Wesley. Find other surprises of how he created the market against the odds.

Dr. Wesley gives hope to those starting life and businesses from nothing. A US Citizen who loses everything in WWII, even his wife and two children incarcerated in Japanese American war camps, while he remained free to start a new life and career. A tale of perseverance with a big payoff.

Invisible Vision Book Cover

Book Review

“An intriguing biography of the life of Dr. Newton K. Wesley. A must-read for anyone interested in optometry, eyecare, contact lenses and US History during the pre- and post-WWII era. The biography is timely in that it recounts the fact that the infant Newton Wesley survived the influenza pandemic of 1918 after being born in a lumber camp in Oregon. He and his young family were required to relocate to an internment/prison camp in May 1942 which reminds us of the harshness of racism at that time. The impact of his educational opportunity at Earlham College and his subsequent trip to Chicago where he was diagnosed with keratoconus were both impactful in his life’s work. The book details Dr. Wesley’s pioneering work in contact lenses, indeed the very inclusion of the term in the dictionary, as well as developing many of the instruments utilized to advance Contact Lens studies. It further details his understanding of the importance of the relationship between the curvature of the human eye, the tear layers and the success of fitting contact lenses for maximum health, comfort and improvement of vision. The book chronicles how Dr. Wesley built successful businesses, including Wesley-Jessen, after starting in the basement of his home in Chicago, to having national and international locations and factories with hundreds of employees during the manufacturing revolution.”

Dr. Mark K. Colip, President Illinois College of Optometry, Chicago, Illinois.