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Who Invented Eyeglasses?

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Author: Amy Nutt

Eyeglasses are truly one of the most incredible inventions in the history of man, without them many people who've made astounding contributions to society would have been unable to participate in even some of the simplest everyday tasks. Thinking about the sheer number of people you know that require some type of vision correction and how their lives would be affected for the worse if eyeglasses had never been invented puts some perspective into just how important the invention of eyeglasses was to humanity.

We know a good time frame for when eyeglasses where invented, as there are several references to lenses that magnified and aided vision in writings dated between 1265 and 1290, but the actual person responsible for inventing eyeglasses remains a mystery.

Original Glasses

From descriptions and imagery in paintings it is known that the original eyeglasses were quite a bit different than the glasses of today. Original eyeglasses were only perched on the nose, with no extra means of support - this made them very uncomfortable for the wearer and very unsteady if the person wearing them had to do any moving about at all. It wasn't until the more than four hundred years later (sometime during the 1720's) that the frames evolved into what we would recognize as eyeglasses today with arms that use the wearer's ears as the primary means of support, making glasses much more comfortable and stable to wear.

The first pairs of eyeglasses produced had frames made of metal or bone and, at the time the "opticians" didn't have the capabilities of producing flawless lenses in glass so original eyeglasses had lenses made out of quartz.

Over the next few hundred years glasses evolved in both function and comfort, glass became a viable option for lenses because production methods that eliminated bubbles and other imperfections emerged. Glasses were produced to correct a variety of vision problems, from simple magnification for reading to correcting near sightedness and far sightedness.

Evolution of Eyeglasses

In the mid 1780's, American pioneer, inventor and visionary Benjamin Franklin invented the first version of the bi-focal. It was said that Franklin was bothered by the hassle of having to constantly change glasses to be able to clearly see as he completed different tasks, so to put an end to the hassle he began work on a set of lenses that would work to correct both vision problems that he suffered from.

In recent years lenses have evolved even further beyond what even the great mind of Benjamin Franklin could have imagined - progressive lenses these days have any number of different correction properties as you proceed from the top of the lens down to the bottom.

The frames of eyeglasses have also come a long way since the invention of eyeglasses. Today your average wearer has little trouble getting their hands on an almost weightless frame that is practically indestructible. New advancements have made possible the creation of eyeglass frames that can be bent and twisted and then will just return to their originally designed shape.

It's also safe to assume that without the invention of eyeglasses that there would be no hard or soft contact lenses and that there would be no vision correction surgery available. Though it's impossible from the information that we have to determine exactly who invented eyeglasses, it's very safe to say that whoever had a hand in the creation and development of this form of vision correction changed the way that a huge part of the history of the population went about living their lives for the better. If it weren't for eyeglasses as we know them, there are a lot of people over the course of the last several hundred years whose quality of life would have been substantially lower than it was because of the benefits received from eyeglasses.

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