Eye Matters
January 29, 2010
The history of eye glasses

The earliest historical reference to eyeglasses dates back to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Around 4BC – 65AD the roman philosopher Seneca is said to have used a water filled glass globe as a magnifying glass to read “the books of Rome”.{{more}}

Later on glass blowers in Italy produced stones made of glass and called them reading stones.

Abbas Ibn Firnas is also said to have devised a way to produce reading stones in the 9th century. These stones were similar to today’s hand held magnifiers.

The earliest evidence of “a convex lens forming a magnified image” dates back to the Book of Optics by Alhazen in 1021. It was translated into Latin in the 12th century and was instrumental to the invention of eyeglasses in 13th century Italy.

In China, sunglasses without any corrective benefits were developed from flat panes of smoky quartz, and protected the eyes from glare and were used around the 12th century.

It was around the mid-13th century that English scientist and philosopher Roger Bacon described the use of reading stones.

Early Reports on the use of Eyeglasses came around 1285-1289. These reading lenses were set in leather, bone or metal and were shaped with handles that formed a V shape to balance properly on the nose.

Around 1284 in Italy, Salvino D’Armate is credited with the invention of the first wearable eye glass.

Giordano da Rivalto, a monk in Pisa, Italy coined the word occhiali (for eyeglasses) and its use spread throughout Italy and Europe.

Carlo Dati (1619-76) reported reading an entry describing the invention of eyeglasses in a Latin Chronicle.

Artistic evidence of eyeglasses soon surfaced. In 1352, frescoes depicting monks reading and writing manuscripts while holding magnifying glasses and wearing spectacles perched on their noses showed up. Tommaso da Modena is credited for these paintings.

Sometime in the early 1400’s eyeglasses for distance vision started showing up.

Pope Leo X (1475-1521) was very nearsighted and wore concave lenses for hunting. He claimed they helped him see better than his companions.

In the 1600’s, craftsmen from Spain were credited for creating the first eyeglass frame temples. They attached silk ribbons and strings to the frame and looped them over the wearer’s ears. These were exported to China by Spanish and Italian missionaries. The Chinese attached small metal weights to the strings instead of the loops.

Other interesting highlights:

1730 UK Optician Edward Scarlett introduces rigid temples resting atop the wearer’s ears.

1752 UK designer James Ayscough designs double-hinged temples, He also introduces green and blue tinted glare reducing lenses.

1784 USA Benjamin Franklin invents Bifocal lenses.

1799 John McAllister opens the first optical shop in America in Philadelphia.

1800 The monocle is introduced in England. Monocles were very popular in Europe among people of the upper class.

1825 Englishman Sir George Airy designs lenses to correct astigmatism.

1826 John Hawkins introduces Trifocal lenses

1909 Dr. John Borsch, Jr. introduces fused thinner looking bifocal lenses

1958 Essilor introduces the first progressive multifocal lens, naming it Varilux.

More to come…Have a great weekend.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: [email protected]

Tel: 784 456-1210