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A History of Glasses

By Findul Subscribe to RSS | July 18th 2012 | Views:
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A vision of the past.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but glasses allowed people the vision to work towards the future.

Innovations come and go in our history. We have invented things that have made our lives better (the automobile) or worse (the nuclear bomb). But very few inventions carry themselves with as much weight as eyeglasses. These little tools rarely get much recognition as world changing inventions. Why not? Why not give it the credit it deserves. Without glasses millions of people would not be able to function in today’s fast paced society. We wouldn’t have the amount of soldiers we have to protect our borders. Famous authors would have never been able to write the novels and declarations that changed the world. So, here is a brief history of how glasses were invented and how they spread into our everyday lives.

The innovation of shaping glass to magnify images dates back to Egypt. Hieroglyphs have been found that depict leaders and scribes using simple glass meniscal lenses to help them read the complex language that managed law, religion and architecture. The earliest written record of magnification dates back to Seneca the Younger, tutor of Nero of Rome in 1st Century AD. Documents have been found where Seneca describes using glasses filled with water to read and emeralds to watch gladiator games.

The use of the convex lens to magnify and correct for vision impairment dates back to 1021 in Alhazen’s Book of Optics. It was later translated from Latin into Arabic. This was instrumental in the invention of eyeglasses in 13th century Italy.

In about 1286 the first eyeglasses were invented. According to a sermon delivered in 1306 by Giordano de Pisa, twenty years had passed since the invention of this miraculous tool to help friars read the Holy Bible and study it better without straining their eyes. Soon, his colleague Alessandro della Spina was making eyeglasses for other men of the cloth, painters and scribes. Although this technology was effective in correcting farsightedness due to aging, it wasn’t until 1604 that the first correct explanation arose by Johanas Kepler for why convex and concave lenses corrected this problem.

It wasn’t until more than 100 years later that the first bifocals came into play. American revolutionary, patriot and scientist Benjamin Franklin has been credited with this invention although this is still being disputed by historians. In 1825, British astronomer George Airy invented the first lenses to correct astigmatism.

Over the period of the invention of the eyeglasses, the design of frames has changed significantly. Originally, frames were meant to be held in place by hand or by exerting pressure on the nose. This was obviously not the most effective, comfortable or practical solution. Ideas like making glasses into a hat or tying them around a person’s head like a ribbon were failed attempts to alleviate this issue. Sometime around 1727, the first prototypes for frames held by the ears arose. This addition is credited to British optician, Edward Scarlett.

In the early 20th century, point-focus lenses were developed to increase the accuracy and diversity in types of lenses needed by different people. This type of lens has dominated the eyeglass lens field for years despite the advent of new materials, shapes and additions. This can be credited to Moritz von Rohr, optical scientist.

Although several other inventions, like the contact lens and corrective eye surgery have taken correcting vision to new heights, glasses remain very popular. The technology has improved significantly. Take for instance frames made from memory metal. This allows frames to return to their correct shape after being bent. Spring loaded frames have been invented to withstand impacts and stress of daily wear. Modern frames are now made from titanium - a light weight material that can withstand heat and impact.

Corrective lenses that go into eyewear have a very long history indeed. They have been through major changes that have led them to be a major part of our everyday lives. We must not take for granted what it took to get this technology readily in our hands. Now, glasses are available to just about anyone who really needs them. You can purchase them online and with the social government programs, even those living under the poverty line can afford to get their hands on this product. Maybe that’s why it is so easy to overlook their importance on the impact of our society. Next time you go shopping for frames, take the time to respect the heritage that went into getting them on your face. It might affect your decision in choosing the style of frame and type of lens you buy.

Findul - About Author:
Eyeglasses, Glasses

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