14th Century: The first recorded version of goggles may have been polished or layers of polished tortoise shells in Persia
16th Century: The Persian goggles were imported to Venice.
18th Century: Polynesian skin divers used deep wooden frames. By keeping the face facing downward, air was trapped and protected the eyes from the salt water. Once glass became available (in Polynesia from European explorers) they were the first to incorporate glass lenses, though they were not fully waterproof and were easily dislodged.
1911: Thomas Burgess became the first swimmer to use goggles to cross the English Channel. It’s worth noting that both Captain Webb and Burgess were using breaststroke, front crawl still not having been fully developed.
1916: Swim goggles are patented by C.P. Troppman for use in underwater swimming but there’s no evidence of manufacture or use.
1928: Gertrude Ederle becomes the sixth person, first woman and fastest swimmer to date to swim the English Channel, and the first using front crawl (aka freestyle), using a full-face mask of motorcycle goggles sealed by paraffin wax.
1940: Popular Science magazine prints instructions on how to make wooden goggles.
1940s & 1950s: Florence Chadwick and other open water swimmers use their own versions with large rubber seals and double-lens glass
1960s: Individual swimmers started creating very basic goggles with plastic cups help to the face with elastic.
1968: Advertisements appear for plastic goggles in Swimming World Magazine. Apparently, they are not an instant hit
1969: Godfrey Goggles are manufactured in the UK by Thomas Godfrey. He tried a couple of types of plastic before settling on one that hadn’t previously been used for sports but we now know well; Polycarbonate. Thin, light and highly durable and shatter resistant. Scotland’s David Wilkie became the first competitive swimmer to wear both a cap and goggle combination at the 1972 Commonwealth Games, taking silver in the 200m breaststroke.
Since 1972: Since the release of goggles, swim training sessions get longer, flip turns get faster. Goggles now allow elite swimmers to swim more than 4000m. The Men’s 1500 time drops by 2 minutes (13%) over three consecutive Olympics.