A Brief History of Eyeglasses

Correction of Optical Defects: From Spectacles to Lasers – Professor William Ayliffe

Professor William Ayliffe, from Gresham College, is one of the world’s leading experts on the history and evolution of spectacles. He dates the use of magnifying lenses, the precursors of eyeglasses, to the times of Troy. According to Ayliffe, magnifying lenses were used for reading purposes and it is impossible to know where exactly where this idea originated. Spectacles, therefore, are nearly impossible to track to an exact date. It’s believed that the first pair of spectacles were created between 1268 and 1289 during the time when Roman priest Friar Giordano de Pisa refers to their creator during a sermon. It’s believed that this Roman priest was part of the same monastery as the unknown man who first created spectacles in Pisa, Italy. From his monastery, the idea of glasses was exported throughout Europe.

Early glasses were made of quartz and were usually held together using bone, leather, or metal. Additionally, they were either in the form of scissors that were held by a pinching above the nose or they were manually upheld, two options that caused people a lot of frustration. It was not until Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocals that glasses began taking their modern-day shape.


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