Three Fascinating Facts About the History of Spectacles

By | December 16, 2013

Womens glasses

Today there is an entire industry that revolves around eye care, and corrective lenses. Ordering glasses online is almost as easy as ordering a new computer, or paying a bill with online banking. Glasses have had an amazing impact on individuals with visual impairments. However, throughout most of human history, if your vision wasn’t clear, then you would simply have to cope with the visual impairment and hope that your friends and family would inform you about nearby dangers.

The discovery that preceded the creation of spectacles was only as recent as about 1000 ACE. Reading glasses back then were essentially large glass paperweights, called reading stones. People used the principles of magnification to view images through a half-sphere of glass. Around 1286 ACE, the first evidence of glasses that could be worn began to appear in Italy. The rest is history, but there are some very interesting facts that might give you a greater appreciation for the technology that helps more than 64% of all Americans today.

No one knows who created the first pair of spectacles.

Well, no one alive today, that is. Historical documents point to an anonymous creator, who resisted sharing his invention with anyone else. However, a monk took matters into his own hands. The 1313 obituary of Friar Spina comments on how kind it was of the Friar to share this invention with everyone, when the original inventor had selfishly tried to keep the invention proprietary.

Spectacles have long been associated with intelligence.

The association of eyeglasses with bookworms is surprisingly not modern. The correlation seems to have been there right from the start. In 1352 ACE, a painting of the Cardinal Hugh of Provence was created by Tommaso da Modena, and this painter chose to add spectacles to the Cardinal’s likeness. The only problem with this was that the Cardinal had died before glasses had even been invented. The addition of the glasses was done to signify scholarship, and wisdom.

Designer eyewear is nothing new.

Round glasses have a historical aesthetic for a good reason. Until the end of 18th century, round lenses were essentially the only style available. Soon after, oval lenses became fashionable, and during the 1830s, rectangular lenses and frames became popular. Around this time, various frame materials became available, and their construction ranged from common steel and brass, to the exotic tortoiseshell, baleen, silver, and gold. In Asian countries, eyeglasses were a social status symbol more than they were a necessity for clearer vision.

There are approximately 225 million people in America who use corrective lenses, according to Statistic Brain. Our modern day glasses and contact lenses have come a long way, but if you think that eyewear technology is at its zenith, then think again. Stronger, lighter, and clearer lenses are still being created for glasses and for contact lenses, and innovative coatings are making lenses more functional than ever. Corrective lenses may have had a fascinating past, but their present and future are also bright. Research more like this: