Spectacles have been a part of many people’s lives, though most of them have hardly tried knowing their history. There is no doubt that spectacles are not just for caring our eyes, but have also become a fashion statement. These eyeglasses are easily available in various styles, in different colors and shades, at every optical store. Without a shadow of doubt, the invention of eye glasses influenced progress in every part, be it arts, science or commerce. Yet, we do not know whom to give credit for this. Talking about the background of it, Marco Polo is known as the first one, who observed Chinese using spectacles in 1270 during his visit to China. However, Chinese claim that eyeglasses came in to existence in Arabia in the 11th century. Let us have a trip into the history of spectacles and gather some exciting information about their origin.
Interesting Information on the Background of Eyeglasses
In 1268, Roger Bacon claimed, scientifically, for the first time, that lenses could be used for vision correction. In 1289, usage of glasses was noticed. However, nobody has made any mention of their inventor. Ptolemy invented the basic laws of light diffraction and wrote in detail on the subject (Snellius formulated the laws of diffraction much later, between 1600 and 1620), helping the origin of spectacles.
As per the theories of Alhazen, an Arabic mathematician, glass spheres came into existence to get rid off presbiopia (the weakness of focusing on articles that are near) in between 1268 and 1289. It was a magnifying glass, known as “reading stone”, used as a handheld item. People used to place it on the reading material. Ventian glass blowers were the first organisation to produce magnifying glasses applying the very theories.
They later produced lenses, which could be placed in a frame in front of the eye, instead on the reading matters. Earlier it was intended to use by one eye and people use to place it on their nose. Later on, in the 13th century, the idea to frame two ground glasses took place. The round glasses, however, could not be used while walking, traveling, or doing any of the works that involved motion.
With time, people started looking at eyeglasses for regular and continuous use. However, it was quite difficult for them to keep holding the glasses. In 1718, Edward Scarlett, a London optician, put arms on eyeglasses, to hold them on the ears and with this, eyeglasses converted into spectacles. Single small lenses, with decorative stems, quizzing glasses and hand-held scissors glasses, were not only the talk of town, but also became the choice of many popular personalities, such as Goethe, Washington and Napoleon, during 1700-1800.
Therefore, the credit of spectacles goes to Edward Scarlett, whereas the credit for the invention of bifocals goes to Benjamin Franklin. The interesting part of Franklin is that he was also a myopic. Once he got tired of interchanging two pairs of glasses constantly, hence he decided to get rid off this trouble. After much effort, he figured out the way to make his glasses let him see both near and far. He used to have two pairs of spectacles and cut the lenses of both half. Then, he put half of each lens in a single frame to invent a biofocal.
Till date, there is not a single name that can be credited with the invention of spectacles. Theories to construct glasses were taken from the Arabic mathematician, where as Greek philosopher Aristophanes came to be known as the first one to observe that glasses can be used for vision correction. However, Roger Bacon proved it in a scientific way. Gradually it started taking different shapes. Many more names like Franklin and Scarlett were added in the list later on, but no individual can claim to have invented it on his own. Isn’t it quite unique?