A Detailed History of Glasses

August 15, 2022 Published by Leave your thoughts

Do you ever wonder about the invention of glasses? You may, after all, wear a pair every day. And even if you don’t, you know at least someone who does. 

Isn’t it amazing how a small device can do big things, especially for those who have eye problems? Let’s take a quick look at the history of eyeglasses, so we can better appreciate them in our everyday life. 

The Birth of Eyeglasses

Italian monks created the first glass lenses in the 13th century. The semi-shaped ground lenses developed were first made with beryl, a type of quartz. At the time, these lenses worked the same way as magnifying glasses. 

In the fishing village of Murano, a glassworks factory was the only one that had the ability to manufacture the type of soft glasses needed to produce the lenses. This version of the lens originally developed by the monks featured convex ground lenses and was incorporated with iron, wood, or horn for its edges. They then came to be known as reading aids specifically designed to help far-sighted individuals read better. 

 A Modernized Style

The modern eyeglasses as we know them today did not even come to be until 1727. The British optician, Edward Scarlett, revised the design so that the glasses can be used hands-free, and instead worn over the nose, with a supporting attachment on the ears. 

For this iteration of the design, copper, lead, or wood was primarily used as the materials for the eyeglasses frame. Later on, as the styles progressed, more materials were used to make eyeglasses more fashionable. Bone, horn, and leather were added to the options, with the more expensive materials making for a more valuable pair. 

Notable Contributors

Throughout the centuries, many personalities further contributed to the improvement of eyeglasses. 

Benjamin Franklin, for one, has long been credited with inventing the bifocals. His process entailed the division of lenses for the near and far-sighted. His design used metal for the frames. 

In 1827, the functionality of eyeglasses advanced further, this time having been designed to address and correct astigmatism. Sir George Biddle Airy, an English mathematician and astronomer, created his design first as a handheld device. Later on, he came up with a pressurizing ribbon to be placed on the nose bridge, like a pincer. 

Eyeglass of Today

Would you believe that it wasn’t until the 1980s that plastic material was used for eyeglass frames? With the development of plastic technology, it also became possible to have sturdier but lighter glasses that can be easily stored and last longer. 

Today, many more materials are being used for style and functionality. From carbon fiber to bamboo to composite materials for sustainability, eyeglasses have come a long way from their 13th-century origins. 

Most importantly, at the end of the day, is that all the developments and contributions throughout its history have allowed us to see clearly. 


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