A Brief History of Eyeglasses

Have you ever wondered where the concept of eyeglasses originated? The following article will discuss the history of eyewear, its evolution, and why it’s so important. OptiExpress offers the Cape Coral and Ft. Myers communities comprehensive eye care services, including thorough eye exams, a one-hour onsite lab, and a huge selection of designer frames.

No one currently living can remember a time when eyeglasses weren’t a common visual aid or accessory. As technologies go, they’ve probably undergone the fewest fundamental changes; though the materials and methods of construction have evolved considerably, they function in essentially the same way as they always have. People wearing spectacles in previous centuries probably wouldn’t be too alarmed by today’s selection of eyewear.

Nevertheless, the origins of eyeglasses are endlessly interesting, and the history of corrective viewing aids spans back more than two millennia. Here are a few facts about the history of eyewear.

The Middle Ages

Though Ancient Romans did use tools and enhancements to sharpen their vision for reading – including glass globes filled with water – the first actual purpose-built glasses were likely invented in the early Middle Ages. By the 13th century, glass lenses were being fabricated by glass-blowers and fitted into frames made either of wood or horn in order to create magnifying lenses for reading. Eyewear was also manufactured during approximately the same period using the same technology, though they were installed in dual frames made of bone, horn, or wood with leather bridge supports so that they could be comfortably worn on the face. The very first pictorial evidence is a painting by Tommaso da Modena featuring a Dominican monk wearing spectacles while writing a document.

It is believed that the inventor of corrective eyewear was Salvino D’Armate, who produced the first examples of eyeglasses sometime in 1284. These early eyeglasses could correct nearsightedness and farsightedness, but myopic correction was invented more than 100 years later, sometime in the 15th century.

The 18th Century

The 18th and early 19th centuries saw several engineering advancements for eyeglasses. Metal frames had largely supplanted wood, though horn and tortoise shell were commonly used. The first rigid temples were invented in 1730, helping to stabilize eyewear, which had been previously designed to balance precariously on the bridge of the nose. Although convex and concave lenses had been in use during the 17th century, Benjamin Franklin invented the first bifocal lenses in the late 18th century. Shortly after in 1825, lenses that addressed astigmatism were first conceived and invented by Sir George Airy, a 23-year-old mathematician from Northumberland, England.

Modern Eyewear

The first widely available sunglasses arrived in 1929, though tinted-lens sun goggles had already been in use since the early 19th century, and sun-shielding eyewear had been invented in China in the 13th century.

From the 20th century forward, eyeglasses materials were no longer limited to glass lenses and metal or horn frames; plastic and polycarbonate are now the very commonly used, though glass is still the most commonly used for strong prescriptions. Plastic frames are typically made of acetate, sometimes combined with carbon or nylon. Metal frames are generally titanium, aluminum, or alloys.

Although eyeglasses seem like simple devices, they are incredibly important for maintaining and enhancing vision; wrong or outdated prescriptions may compromise the long-term health of your eyes. Finding the right eyewear and prescription for your needs will help keep your vision sharp and enhance your quality of life.

OptiExpress offers a wide variety of frame materials and styles – from classic to thoroughly modern. To find the best eyewear for your vision needs and lifestyle, don’t hesitate to come to our Cape Coral or Fort Myers location and try on examples of our fantastic designer glasses.

OptiExpress: Delivering the Highest Quality Eyewear in South Florida

OptiExpress founder Dr. J. Michael Witherington has been one of South Florida’s most respected optical clinicians for more than two decades. For a comprehensive eye exam or to view our gallery of designer eyeglasses, stop by our showroom today!