The interesting world of optics

Eyeglasses, or should I call them our dear old visual aids, have a rich history which dates back to the 13TH century AD. Of course, they have come a long way from being a riveted pair, to what we are wearing now. With new materials and state-of-the-art technology, our eyeglasses today are ultra-comfortable, light and just heavenly to put on.

Well, I did some research and guess what I found out? Did you know that eyeglasses are not “glasses” anymore? Did you know that that the first specs were called reading stones? Despite them being so popular and more people opting for eyeglasses than other means of visual aid, not many people actually know about spectacles. Well, here are some interesting historical and current facts.

Looking through the glass

1. The first record of visual aids dates back to the 1st century in Ancient Rome. Roman emperor Nero used an emerald as a binocular during gladiator games. Talk about royalty!

Ancient Rome Roman emperor

2. Alhazen, the Father of Modern Optics, in his book entitled Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics) discussed about the use of convex lens to form magnified image. Written in 1021, this Arabic book was instrumental to the invention of eyeglasses. Amazing!

Kitab al-Manazir

3. Circa early 1200s, the earliest recorded evidence of eyeglasses demonstrates that it first appeared in Pisa, Italy. The lenses of these primitive eyeglasses were placed directly onto the eyes.


4. Although the invention of visual aids dates way back to the 1st century, there is not one person who has ever been identified as the single inventor of eyeglasses.


5. Earliest eyeglasses did not have handles in them; the Spanish came up with the idea to fix silk ribbons or strings in the frames so one could wrap them around their heads. But thanks to British optician Edward Scarlett the modern style of eyeglasses frame which could be placed over the ears and nose came into existence.

modern style of eyeglasses frame

6. Some of the early eyeglasses frames were made of materials such as wood, lead and cooper. Later on, natural materials like leather, bones and horns were used. How Bizarre!

early eyeglasses frames wood, copper, lead

7. Benjamin Franklin has long been credited with the invention of bifocal lenses. The Founding Father himself suffered from nearsightedness and age-related farsightedness. Great men and their glasses!

Round Eyeglasses

8. The world’s first progressive lens was invented by Bernard Maitenaz and this modern progressive lens to correct presbyopia was released in 1959.

Bernard Maitenaz

(Bernard Maitenaz)

9. Commonly known as glasses but now with modern technology and materials, most lenses are made of plastic. This is to prevent them from breaking and it also makes them light-weight. This is also to prevent further damage to the eyes in the event of an accident. Safety first!

spectacle frames

10. According to Earth 911, 25% of today’s world population needs spectacles in some format.

specs frames

Did you know?

* The first record of glasses dates back to 12th century China – where flat panes of smoky quartz were used as tinted lenses to cut off glare from the sun. Apparently this was used to hide their expressions during an interrogation session.

eye  glasses

* Back then, many sailors popularly believed that wearing gold earrings will improve eye-sight. Maybe this is the reason why pirates are often depicted with golden earrings. Arrghhh!

gold earrings will improve eye-sight

* Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most well-known figures of the 20th century. The popular imagery of the iconic figure is a man wrapped in cotton sheets and wearing a pair of round nickel spectacles.

Mahatma Gandhi spectacles

Well, there you go! Interesting, weren’t they? And truth be told, I had no idea about some of these facts. The world of eyeglasses had a peculiar history. These tidbits were totally worth sharing. If you’re a bespectacled like I am, you should go ahead and share these facts with your friends and family.

Share this articleShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestGoogle+