Swimming Goggles (1969)

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Swimming coach and entrepreneur Tony Godfrey launched the first goggles for swimmers in 1969 and marketed them directly via clubs and mail order. The design has since been widely copied and pirated but never changed. The goggles are still made in the same moulds on behalf of his company, now called Swimgear of London.

At first they were made in PMMA but too many pairs broke in the post. The moulders eventually used a new, more impact-resistant material that had not previously been used in any sports applications: polycarbonate. For the 5% of users whose face profile did not allow them to use the goggles without pads, Godfrey later devised pads made in Evazote, expanded PE from Zotefoams.

Godfrey recalls: "I used to take pairs to poolsides on a wooden plank and hit them repeatedly with a claw hammer. This eventually flattened them but none ever shattered."

The invention revolutionised the sport because they protected the eye from chlorine and effectively allowed school-age swimmers to practice in the mornings.

Scotland's David Wilkie became the first swimmer to use a headcap/goggles combination. He won a silver medal for the 200m breaststroke at the Munich Olympics in 1972, then gold at the same events and another silver at Montreal in 1976.

Technically speaking, the goggles were illegal artificial aids but almost all competition swimmers now use them. Ian Thorpe wore them to win his series of medals at Sydney in 2000 while also wearing a costume designed by Godfrey's daughter.


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