Woman with glasses

History of Eyeglasses

The history of eyeglasses is extensive and yet it is difficult to know the exact date in history. Eyeglasses serve dual purposes, not only do they help us to have clearer vision, they are also used as fashion statements. There are many types of eyeglasses, and although the styles may change, they are one of the most timeless accessories and women love them.

In The Beginning

  • Vision correcting tools were reported to have been used in early Roman times, and it is even rumored that the Chinese were the original inventors of eyeglasses.
  • Monks around 1,000 A.D were known to use "reading stones" to improve their vision. They were helpful to some degree but they basically served the same purpose as magnifying glasses.
  • When attempting to understand the history of eyeglasses, it is a universally recognized truth that Roger Bacon in 1268 was the one who realized that vision could actually be corrected by using corrective lenses.

    Although Roger made the discovery, it was actually Salvino D'Armate who is recognized with inventing the very first "wearable" eyeglasses in 1284. Others say it was Fra Alessandro da Spina of Pisa, a Dominican monk.

    As we research the history of eyeglasses is is difficult to know the exact year of this alleged invention. It was probably sometime in the late 1200's. It would be safe to say they were invented sometime between 1268 and 1300 in Italy.
  • Although early eyeglasses were advanced for their time, they only contained one type of corrective lens. These eyeglasses used convex lenses which were used to help those who suffered from farsightedness. Farsightedness is the vision issue that allows people to be able to focus clearly on objects that are far away, but they have a difficult time seeing things that are closer.

    During the 16th century concave lenses were introduced for nearsightedness to help those who were aging and needed assistance with their vision.
  • The history of eyeglasses had a significant turn around in 1784. Benjamin Franklin was forced to switch between two different pairs of eyeglasses in order to see properly. It was at that time that Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal lenses so that he would only need one pair of glasses.
  • The original eyeglasses, while helpful, were not like out modern eyeglasses. They did not have the "arms" or “stems” that allow the eyeglasses to stay on our faces and be used hands free. For the addition of eyeglasses arms, history credits optician Edward Scarlett for making it possible for eyeglasses to securely stay on the face.

    Eyeglasses vs. spectacles – today we don’t use the term spectacles any more but at the turn of the century eyeglasses was the terminology used to indicate glasses with no side piece and spectacles referred to glasses with a stem.

    Although Edward developed these in 1727, some people preferred to wear a one eyed corrective lens known as the monocle, also called an eye ring, in the 1800's. In use also was the lorgnette which was two glasses with a long handle held up to the eye used primarily by women.
  • Europeans in particular the French were known to only use their reading glasses in private. The monocle and the lorgnette were popular because they could easily be put away. The Spaniards took a different approach. They felt glasses made them look more important.

Biofocals Make A Slow Appearance

  • Bifocals came into use in the 19th century but they progressed very slowly. John Isaac Hawkins is credited with introducing bifocals and trifocals and by the turn of the 20th century their popularity was on the increase.
  • In 1889 August Muller helped to lay the foundation for experimentation for contact lenses. In 1892 doctors and eyeglass firms developed contact lenses and by 1965 over 6 million people were using contact lenses.

Eyeglasses have become such a fashion statement there are some women who wear them on a regular basis even though they don't need them. Although they are a fashion statement for some they are a necessity for most of us. The good news is that regardless of your purpose there are style choices for any woman's taste.

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