How Eyeglasses have Changed over time

Eyeglasses have Changed
Eyeglasses have Changed

Seeing someone wearing eyeglasses is pretty commonplace and, unbeknownst to you, there will also be plenty of people wearing contact lenses. There are reading glasses, prescription sunglasses, varifocals and bifocal glasses… in this day and age, you can easily go to an optometrist and walk out with a brand-new pair of spectacles within the hour. But it wasn’t always this easy – the development of eyeglasses took centuries.

The Early Years

It’s unknown who first invented glasses exactly, but it was the Romans who first discovered the ability to use glass to improve their vision. They used glass to help read small texts by creating magnifying glasses – the foundation of modern eyeglasses.

The first wearable glasses were thought to have originated in Italy in the 13th century. They consisted of glass-blown lens in either wooden or leather frame and would be held up in front of the face or perched on the end of the nose. The glass blowers who created these lenses would make them in varying thicknesses based on an extremely basic vision test.

As with most new inventions these were very expensive to procure and were only available to the very wealthy – therefore, they quickly became a status symbol. It was way back in the Renaissance that glasses were first associated with intelligence!

The invention of the arms that would make glasses “hands-free” is thought to date back to the 16th-century thanks to the depiction of these in artwork. However, they weren’t the sleek plastic arms that rest on top of the ears, they were made of metal and leather and would extend all the way around the ears.

Further Advancements

Following the development of these arms, the eyeglasses began to make more significant advancements. Innovators were prompted to create thinner and more accurate lenses.

You might already be aware that it was Benjamin Franklin who invented the bifocal lens, allowing someone who is both near and farsighted to be able to use just one pair of glasses instead of having to alternate between two. This invention was as simple as cutting the lenses in half and putting them together in one frame.

The 19th century saw the industrial revolution creep in and eyeglasses, like many products, began to be mass-produced, thus making them much more accessible for working men and women. No longer were they reserved for the rich.

Modern Day Glasses

Once eyeglasses became more common and affordable this sparked the desire to make them more fashionable. Glasses started coming in various different styles and shapes, using different materials and colours. This was furthered by the increasing availability of strong plastics as plastic could be moulded in lots of different shapes and size.

The 20th century saw a rise in the use of sunglasses but not for protection from the sun but rather as a fashion choice. It was during the 1900s that experts realised their use for those with light sensitivity caused by medical conditions and starting in 1929, sunglasses were being mass-produced as a form of sun protection.

The durable plastic lens that we are familiar with today came about in the 1980s. Using plastic meant that lenses are less prone to breaking and could be made thinner and lighter. 

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