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The History Of Glasses

posted 13 Dec 2010, 04:50 by Mpelembe   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 04:51 ]

Glasses can be traced back in our history as far as the
thirteenth century. The first signs of glasses  lenses were
found in elementary crystals or convex shaped glass that
have been found in archeological digs dating back several
thousand  years. It is believed however that these shaped
"lenses" were not used  for any eyesight correction of
glasses lenses, rather they were used  most probably as
magnifiers. It wasn't until much later, likely the first
glasses as such were  developed in the mid-thirteenth
century from convex lenses. The term  lenses itself is most
likely derived from the latin for "bean" as the  slightly
convex shapr of the bean resembles a basic lens for

The earliest lenses used in any sort of glasses known were
made of  quartz crystals and could be used for correction of
vision as well as  simply magnifying.

As their viability as glasses became more widely known and
so  popular, the process to make the glasses lenses
developed first into  spectacles made from hand blown glass
- and later (likely the very end  of the thirteenth century)
into shaped glasses whereby molten glass was  formed into a
convex mold and so defined a lens that could be used as
glasses or spectacles for correction.

It is also believed that some Roman Emperors had lenses
formed into a  type of spectacles that were made of
emeralds, and so became what were  probably the first
prescription sunglasses.

The real development of glasses as documented however was in
Italy  and were produced by craftsmen who were used to making
jewelry and so  able to incorporate small crystal lenses into
structure that could  support them in front of the eyes
without having to be held.

Of course this made the earliest glasses extremely expensive
as they  were handmade by artisans and used glass which was a
very expensive  material in the 14th and 15th centuries. The
first actual documented  wearer of glasses however was the
Bishop da Provena in the 13th century  who had some simple
magnifying crystals connected to short handles and  then
joined together so that they could be balanced on his
nose….and  became at the same time the first example
of "pincenez".

There remains today some dispute about the origins of
glasses and  spectacles, as there is some evidence that
Marco Polo encountered them  when exploring the East and
landing in China in 1270 or 1271. There is  further credit
give then by the Chinese themselves to the even earlier
development of glasses - or  at least of a practical
corrective  (non-magnifying) lens to Arabia as much as a
century earlier.

Despite this somewhat disputed provenance, there is no doubt
as to  the popularity that glasses enjoyed as the manufacture
of them became  less of an artisan skill and more of a
manufacturing process using glass  and being predictive of
the lens curvature and so correction for myopia  in

It is interesting to note that although there is good
documentary  evidence of glasses being produced in some
fairly significant volume in  the 16th century - it was not
until much later in the early part of the  seventeenth
century that the physics of the lens was actually understood
 and how the correction for myopia actually came about. This
discovery  or explanation is credited to Johannes Kepler who
studied optics for  several decades, eventually publishing
his work in 1604.

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