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Eyeglasses are arguably the most common medical device in the world. For centuries people have used them to help correct their vision. But where did they come from? Today we’d like to provide you with a brief glimpse into the history of glasses.

Glasses before glasses

Early history records various glass devices being used to help with reading or vision. The earliest recorded instances were of ancient Romans using pieces of glass or glass containers filled with water to magnify their reading. There is also evidence that the second-century Greek mathematician Ptolemy was influential in promoting convex lenses for visual magnification.

By around 1000 AD, reading stones had become popular. These were crystal rocks that were shaped and polished so they could be used to magnify the written word.

The earliest glasses

By the late thirteenth century, glass lenses were placed in frames of wood, leather, or animal horn. The user – and at this point in history they were primarily Italian monks – would then either hold the glasses in front of their face or perch them on their noses. These glasses could only correct for farsightedness, however. It would take a little more than a century for them to correct for nearsightedness, too.

The use of glasses slowly spread throughout Europe, although they were primarily available to just the wealthy. Glasses were first noted in China in the fifteenth century.

More developments

Benjamin Franklin's bifocals

By the 1600s, eyeglass frame temples were developed so people wouldn’t have to hold glasses to their face or rest them on their noses. Initially, ribbons or strings were looped around the wearers’ ears, but by the 1730s rigid arms were developed so that they could rest on top of the ears.

People who had both farsightedness and nearsightedness had to use two separate sets of glasses until Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals in 1784. And in 1825, British astronomer George Airy developed lenses for correcting astigmatism.

Fashion forward

As ubiquitous as they are, wearing glasses has often carried a certain stigma, particularly in the early part of the twentieth century. By the 1970s, however, glasses producers started designing them with fashion and style in mind as much as function.

Modern advances

Technological improvements have led to better, more durable glasses. For example, some frames are made from metallic alloys that make them more flexible and durable. In the 1980s, plastic lenses, which are lighter and less breakable than glass, were introduced.

Premier glasses, premier eye care

If you are looking for the newest and best glasses on the market, come to CEENTA. We have 13 locations in North and South Carolina where you can have your eyes examined and get glasses to match your updated prescription. Not only will our glasses help you see, but you can be part of a history that stretches back millennia.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with a CEENTA eye doctor? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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