We are in the “E” day, cheers cause that means we’re in the 5th of April. For today’s invention I had a problem. I found three “E” inventions that had a great implications on the world. First, we have the “E-mail”, “EEG” and “Eyeglasses”. But after thinking, I found that the “E-mail” subject is not so hot beause everyone knows about it. You all know how it affected the world, right? But some may not know its story. Fortunately, this is not a problem because a famous invention like this you can get all info about its roots from anywhere. The issue is its story isn’t a long one, it is a short and direct story. The “EEG” on the other hand have (almost) no story at all but its effect on the world is somewhat anonymous to most people. But when I compared these two subjects to the invention of “Eyeglasses” it wins. You’ll see how when you read. Go on.
If we want to know the roots of eyeglasses, we will go back in time to the Assyrian civilization. Precisely, the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-612 BC). Around the year 1845, a British archaeologist named Austen Henry Layard was excavating the ruins in Kuyunjik, Iraq. The ruined city he was excavating was formerly known as Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. Layard found an interesting object in the ruins: a ground crystal oval you could see through. He did not know exactly what it was or what it was intended for. In 1853, Sir David Brewster (a friend) presented it to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, showing the association its magnifying capability. This may have been the first optical device used to help people see more clearly.
The earliest written record of magnification dates back to the 1st century AD, when Seneca the Younger, a tutor of Emperor Nero of Rome, wrote: “Letters, however small and indistinct, are seen enlarged and more clearly through a globe or glass filled with water”. Nero (reigned 54–68 AD) is also said to have watched the gladiatorial games using an emerald as a corrective lens.
Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham) was a famous Arab scientist, polymath, mathematician,astronomer and philosopher who made significant contributions to the principles of optics, astronomy, mathematics, visual perception and the scientific method. He discussed the use of convex lens in his most famous “Book of Optics” (1021).
While the art and science of glassmaking can be traced back to the late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC), the earliest glass was used for vessels and ornaments. It was not of the optical quality required for making lenses.
Sunglasses in the form of flat panes of smoky quartz, were used in China in the 14th century. Chinese judges wore smoke-colored quartz lenses to conceal their eye expressions in court.
We don’t know for sure who invented the first eyeglasses. An Italian named Salvino D’Armate is often credited with the invention. His tomb, which no longer exists, was said to have the inscription: Here lies Salvino degl’ Armati, son of Armato of Florence, inventor of eyeglasses. May God forgive his sins. AD 1317. But these claims were exposed to be hoaxes. Others say that the first eyeglasses were made in Italy at about 1286 originally consisting of thin pieces of glass which were placed directly onto the eyeball. According to a sermon delivered on February 23, 1306, by the Dominican friar Giordano da Pisa (ca. 1255–1311): “It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision…And it is so short a time that this new art, never before extant, was discovered…I saw the one who first discovered and practiced it, and I talked to him.”. A Dominican friar named Alessandro Spina, also from Italy, is also given credit, but it is thought that he made glasses after watching someone else make them first.
The first eyeglasses were lenses mounted in frames that had to be worn on the bridge of one’s nose. Wearing glasses turned out to be somewhat of a balancing act! In the 17th century, Spanish spectacle makers used strips of silk ribbon that could be attached to the glasses and looped over the wearer’s ears to help keep them on. In 1752, an inventor named James Ayscough began to sell glasses that had hinged metal side pieces. These side pieces allowed a person to open the eyeglasses and place them on. The side pieces hooked over the ears and kept them secure. They soon after became extremely popular.
Another improvement, which many of us are thankful for today, came from Benjamin Franklin. Franklin suffered from two vision conditions. The first, called myopia, or nearsightedness, makes it more difficult to see far away. The second problem he suffered from was presbyopia, which is the inability of the eye to focus as one gets older. Franklin found that, depending on what he was doing, he needed two pairs of glasses handy. To solve this problem, he invented bifocals. Each lens of Franklin’s bifocals was actually made of two lenses with different convex characteristics. One lens allowed him to see faraway objects, while the second allowed him to focus.
After that, came lots of improvements to create different types of glasses like Corrective, Bifocal, Trifocal, Progressive, Adjustable focus. Another type of lens used to correct vision is called the contact lens. In 1508, the famed inventor Leonardo da Vinci came up with
the idea for contact lenses, but it would be over 300 years before someone actually made the first “hard” contact lens. It was not until 1961 that a Czech inventor named Otto Wichterle, a chemist, would develop the specialized materials and processes to manufacture optical gels, leading to today’s “soft” contact lenses.
So, this is the story of eyeglasses. But how did glasses improve our world? Throughout their eight hundred year existence, eyeglasses have changed the way people live and the way people view the world. Without them, more than 60% of the world would have a serious problem in seeing things and reading of course. Imagine all those brilliant scientists in different fields who could have been disabled by their weak vision. The ability to read through weak eyes is the most important (in my opinion) world-changing result of the eyeglasses invention.