Discover the history of the invention of eyeglasses

See all the letters right up there? If not, don’t be scared: an accessory that has long been part of our daily lives can help you in this task. The history of eyeglasses dates back to the pre-Christian era. The first records of its use are in texts by the Chinese philosopher Confucius dated 500 […]

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See all the letters right up there? If not, don’t be scared: an accessory that has long been part of our daily lives can help you in this task.

The history of eyeglasses dates back to the pre-Christian era. The first records of its use are in texts by the Chinese philosopher Confucius dated 500 BC. C. So, glasses had no degrees and were used as an ornament or as a form of social distinction.

Although the magnifying properties of a curved piece of glass were known from at least 2000 BC. C., the manufacture of lenses is only possible in the Middle Ages, with the improvement made by the Arab mathematician Al-Hazen of the fundamental laws of optics – part of physics that studies the phenomena related to light and vision.

At that time, inside the monasteries, beryl, quartz and other precious stones were cut and polished in order to produce the so-called reading stone, a very simple type of magnifying glass. In 1267, the Franciscan monk Roger Bacon takes one of these reading stones to Pope Clement IV and manages to demonstrate its usefulness to those who have some difficulty with eyesight.

The first pair of lenses with degrees joined by iron hoops and rivets appeared in Germany in 1270. These primitive glasses have no temples and are fitted only over the nose. Shortly thereafter, models similar to the German appear in several Italian cities.

Florence, Padua and Venice were important trading posts during the Renaissance, which led Italy to quickly stand out in the manufacture of eyeglasses. The Dominican friar Alessandro della Spina and the physician Savino degli Armati are considered pioneers.

Manufactured by skilled artisans, eyeglasses were rare and expensive items that symbolized scholarship, culture, nobility, and status. It was even customary to be included in the families’ inventories and be left as an inheritance. Gradually, with the manufacture on a larger scale in industries born in Germany and Italy, especially, the accessory became popular.

Initially, glasses were used only for reading, improving the visual ability of people with presbyopia and farsightedness. In 1441, the first lenses suitable for the needs of the nearsighted appear. The solution for people with astigmatism only appears a little later, in 1827.

Until the 16th century, available models did not have fixed temples over the ears. The pince-nez glasses were fitted only over the nose and the lorgnons had a side rod where the wearer held them to place them in front of the eyes.

The rods as we know them today only appear in the 17th century. Even so, pince-nez and lorgnons continued to be used until the beginning of the 20th century, when they came to be preferred by the numont models, that is, with light, thin shafts, perpendicular to the lens and resting on the ears.

The use of plastics and their derivatives in the manufacture of frames from the 1940s onwards opened up new design possibilities for eyewear. The forerunners of the models that are successful today appeared around 1970: with large and colorful rims, they became the models found today in faces and specialty stores scattered around.

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