Seeing Clearly: The History of Eyeglasses

The first eyeglasses had lenses made of natural crystal and were so heavy they had to be held in the hand. Fortunately, many improvements have occurred since then.

When Were Glasses Invented?

4 BC to 65 AD — The first person to invent a lens to improve sight is unknown. Although, it's believed that Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Roman philosopher and public official, used a glass globe filled with water, as a magnifier to read Roman texts.

It's believed that the Roman emperor, Nero, viewed public events through a concave glass to correct his near-sightedness.

When Were Wearable Eyeglasses Invented?

13th Century (1201 to 1300) — During the Middle Ages, Italian monks were thought to have created the first shaped, ground lens from made of beryl quartz for reading. They worked similar to a magnifying glass.

The Glassworks factory in Murano, Italy manufactured a soft glass that was suited for making glass lenses. These glasses had a convex lens and were called reading aids. The outer frame was usually made of iron, horn, or wood. The first wearable eyeglasses were thought to have been invented around 1284, by Salvino D'Armate, and were used to help far-sighted individuals read. They were placed on the bridge of the nose.

15th Century (1401 to 1500) — In the 15th century, eyeglasses increased in demand partly due to the first newspaper, The London Press, being published in 1665. Wearing eyeglasses became a status symbol, signifying wealth and intelligence.

17th Century (1601 to 1700) — During the 1600s, Spanish craftsmen fashioned the first frame temples. They attached silk ribbons to frames, which wearers looped over their ears to hold the lenses in place. The improved frame design was imported to China. The Chinese improved the design by attaching small metal weights to the ribbons for stability. Later, lighter-weight frames were made of steel.

The Origin of Modern-Day Eyewear

18th Century (1701 to 1800) — British optician, Edward Scarlett, invented the modern eyeglass frame in 1727. Unfortunately, they were cumbersome with the lenses set in thick, heavy frames and made of lead, copper or wood. Eventually, more lightweight materials were used to produce frames like bone, horn and leather.

In the 1750s — Benjamin Martin developed a more modern version of eyeglasses. His version had a reduced aperture lens encased in a thick horn margin. This eyeglass innovation, made of horn, steel, and glass, became known as “Martin’s Margins”.

Around 1750 — American scientist and Philadelphia resident, Benjamin Franklin devised a double-focus spectacle. His spectacles had a split-lens design (bifocal lens) in a metal frame. The upper lens was used to see in the distance while the lower lens was used for close work or reading. Unfortunately, Franklin's lens design made walking difficult.

19th Century (1801 to 1900) — In approximately 1827, English astronomer, Sir George Biddle Airy invented eyeglasses designed to correct astigmatism. His design was held in place by ribbons or by pinching the bridge of the nose.

Advances in Eye Care Technology Allow for Astigmatism Treatment

19th Century (1801 to 1900) — In approximately 1827, English astronomer, Sir George Biddle Airy invented eyeglasses designed to correct astigmatism. His design was held in place by ribbons or by pinching the bridge of the nose.

Present-Day Eyeglasses

20th Century (1901 to 2000) — Durable, lightweight plastic lenses were introduced in the 1980s as an alternative to heavier glass lenses.

Present-Day — Now, eyeglasses are available in a wide variety of colors and styles, including designer frames. With new technology and improvements in prescription accuracy, optometrists can measure eye prescriptions faster, cheaper, and with increased precision.

At this time, Advantage Dental+ only offers optical services in Alabama.*

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