Evolution Of Swimming Goggles

Swimming is one of the best recreational and competitive activities known to man. Having to live in a planet which is dominated by water, humans had always drawn to the waters and can’t help but to enjoy it.

When people swim in the open seas or do skin diving or do a couple strokes in a swimming pool, the eyes will always be strained by the waters. Swimmers cannot evade this challenge since in order to know where they are swimming towards, it is necessary for them to open their eyes once in awhile. That is where the gogles come in, it is the ultimate gear for swimmers and water lovers out there. We enjoy the waters and oceans now because of the help of gogles yet little do we know about its history, on how it came to be.

Let us take you back to memory lane as we trace back how gogles were first invented and realized. Through a simple timeline, we will see how a simple swimming gear took all the painstaking evolution to reach its pinnacle design we now use today.

14TH Century

For swimmers, the 14th century is often regarded as the birth of goggles era. The foremost known goggles worn for swimming and pearl diving were invented in Persia. The pair was made from refined tortoise shells. This tortoise inspired protective eyewear became popular for two centuries in the Middle East areas.

16th Century

In the 16th century, the Persian’s inventive protective eyewear were imported to Venice and in the year 1530, the “thing” first got its English name “gogolen” which means “to roll the eyes about”. For that span of time, American Indian and African slaves began to put on goggles when diving and swimming to enhance their comfort underwater.

17th Century

A renowned American pilot Guy Gilpatrick went diving and wore goggles to guard his eyes from saltwater.

18th Century

The use of glass as lenses in goggles was first initiated in this era. Polynesian skin divers used to have bamboo or goggles carved on wood with no lenses yet trap the air when the face is submerged onto the water, forming an air bubble on the eye area that enabled the user to have a lucid view underwater. Following that, when the glass was presented by the European explorers to Polynesia, Polynesians were able to incorporate glasses on their deep wooden framed goggles.

Though the said eyewear pairs were not completely waterproof, they were effortlessly dislodged and they undoubtedly enhanced the divers’ visibility underwater.


By the year 1911, Thomas Burgess, on his 14th attempt, swam across the English Channel with the aid of motorcycle goggles. Burgess found the eyewear helpful yet tiresome at the same time.

The motorcycle type of goggle which Burgess used was not waterproof enough; nonetheless, with his breaststroke swimming technique, the goggle served its purpose of keeping his eyes from salt water waves and flashes.


An American inventor named Charles J. Troppman, registered the very first patent for an underwater swimming eye protector or “goggle”. However, there’s no evidence of fabrication of the said product.


Following the steps of Thomas Burgess, an American swimmer named Gertrude Ederle became the foremost woman to swim across the English Channel and wore an improvised swimming goggle.

Ederle’s sister Margaret put a paraffin seal on her goggle pair to prevent water leakage while being underwater.

At this time, even with the increasing popularity as a helpful gear for swimming, waterproofing gogles was still far from realization.

1930’s – 1940’s

In the 1930’s, skin diving and scuba diving gained its immense popularity thus brought great advances and innovations in underwater goggles and mask design. Nevertheless, the said innovations were considered as inapt for swimming matches.

As part of the research advances in the said era, in 1936, Walter Farell copyrighted a goggle intended for underwater eye protection. Consequently, in 1940, printed design plans for wooden goggles based on the inventive Polynesian goggle were launched by a Popular Science Magazine.

1940’s – 1950’s

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Florence Chadwick and other open water swimmers devised their own version of goggles using double lens glass and large rubber seals. These reinvented goggles were large in size and has an awkward form, yet these eye wears served as great shields from salt water and augmented visibility underwater.

On the other hand, goggles still weren’t worn by them in swimming pools.


The sixties didn’t disappoint us in any way. The time brought us stuff to take pleasure in, music to enjoy and swimming goggles.

Individual swimmers began to create their own pair of goggles using cups and elastics. But in spite of the emerging and overflowing ideas, manufacturers were becoming sentient of a breach in the market.

Advertisements come into sight for plastic swimming goggles in Swimming World Magazine in 1968. These early pairs of assembled swim goggles were sold as equipment for swimmers like training boots. Not to mention the availability in one size, these goggles were prohibited in competition proper, making the consumers’ demand crawled back to the bottom. Definitely in that time, the need was there, it was just the one size fits all product didn’t fully met the requirements.

Subsequently, in 1969, Tony Godfrey started fabricating the transfigured goggle design and named the product “Godfrey Goggle”. After several attempts on different types of plastic, Godfrey settled on polycarbonate material. Light in weight, slender, highly resilient and shatter resistant are the top qualities that made the polycarbonate seal the deal. Just like any other promising products, the Godfrey Goggles didn’t instantly made it on top, however, the idea are purportedly copied by numerous goggles companies up until now.


At the1972 Commonwealth Games, Scotland’s David Wilkie becomes the very first competitive swimmer who wore a cap and a swimming goggle, garnering silver award in the 200m breaststroke category.

Since then, goggles became a standard swimming gear wherein incremental goggle features were developed with improvements to hydrodynamics, such as anti-fog, streamlining and UV protection.

In mid 70’s, Malmsten Swedish Goggles are launched to public with the same ideas as what the Godfrey Goggles had.

In the present day and beyond…

Goggles design are quite overwhelming, from the materials used and the science behind every design types. Commencing from tortoise shells, plastics and hard woods to various selection of shapes, tints, styles and uses.

In the past 40 years, goggles’ evolution and dawdling fame is relatively remarkable. From being funny looking diving mask to being a swimmer’s prerequisite. Without doubt, those goggles’ improvements still aren’t sufficient for some. With the surfacing technology that the world has in the present, let’s wait for another modernly goggle transformation. Before then, you can just grab some most popular swimming goggles available in the market today.

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