History of Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses have been mentioned or referenced numerous times throughout history. Many speculate that eyeglasses are almost as old an invention as written history itself, while others take a more conservative belief that eyeglasses were initially invented in the dark ages around 1200-1300 a.d. While there is no solid evidence as to who the initial inventor was, it wouldn’t be surprising if corrective lenses were “invented” multiple times throughout history until a point where the technology was finally passed down throughout multiple generations, eventually reaching the modern era.

Notable historical references to eyeglass discovery and invention

Some believe the Egyptians and Assyrians were the initial inventors of optical lens styles, as they were depicted to have made use of magnifying stones to enlarge text and print. Notable roman philosopher Seneca was known to use water-filled objects as a means to magnify text for studying and reading as early as 4 B.C. While none of these societies formally invented spectacle style glasses, they all used magnifying technology for the purpose of vision correction and enhancing smaller images.

Around the late 12th century A.D, Marco Polo reportedly stated that eyeglasses were widely popular among the wealthy upper class, although many people believe that the Chinese originally obtained the technology through the silk trade with the Middle East nearly one hundred years earlier. Around the similar time, european monks recorded having invented eyeglass spectacles, which were henceforth passed down throughout European and modern history.

Further Development of Eyeglasses

After the 13th century, eyeglasses were built with either convex or concave lens styles, which effectively cured either myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). While near and far-sightedness were the most prevalent eye conditions, many still suffered from astigmatism and presbyopia (both near and far-sightedness). Most credit Ben Franklin with inventing the first bifocal lens, which was able to correct vision both near and far away. Not long after the invention of bifocal glasses, George Airy was credited with inventing a lens style that corrected astigmatism.

In more modern times, eyeglasses have developed many new technologies, specifically with lens curvatures and lens materials. Rarely are eyeglass lenses manufactured with glass anymore, and lenses are now thinner and lighter than ever before, while still retaining pinpoint accuracy (assuming proper prescription). Most eyeglass lenses are made out of plastic polymers, which offer greater flexibility, greater durability, and are safer for active wear.

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