The History of Glasses (2023)

When were spectacles invented? When were reading glasses invented? There are a number of great questions about the first eyeglasses and how they came to be. Lots of people always wonder about the first glasses and what year were glasses invented? In today’s day and age, eyeglasses are a huge part of our everyday life, so it might be difficult to imagine a time before glasses. They’ve become a popular everyday commodity and a staple in our society, but with that aside, most people don’t really know about the history of glasses. Glasses have a very interesting past that should be explored whether you’re a glasses wearer or not! There are a lot of questions that can be answered, for example, “who invented eyeglasses” and “what did people do before glasses?” Here is the abbreviated history of eyeglasses, which starts with very creative people.

Back when it all started

Before the invention of glasses, most people with poor vision just went through life without any aid. At a certain point, people decided to come up with a solution after being sick of having bad vision. They decided to improvise and experiment with different fixes. In fact, the Romans in Italy were the first people who started experimenting with different types of spectacles to try to help their failing vision around the 13th century. They discovered that they could use glass to enlarge small words they were struggling to see. These were referred to as “reading stones.”

They then set the glass into wooden or leather “frames” to perch on their nose between their eyes to make it easier to read. These can be seen as the first reading glasses (which really operated like magnifying glasses). The glasses invented back then were created in several different thicknesses, just like today’s eyewear that caters to people’s different vision needs. At this time, glasses were only available to the wealthy, and they were a sign of intelligence and that one was doing well in society to be able to afford the spectacles. We can credit all of this knowledge to the Renaissance art of this time. We’re able to reference the paintings of the era to see the first optical glasses of this time and see the history of glasses. At this time, they also started as monocle-type style and then became two lenses connected by a piece of metal over the nose called “pince-nez” glasses. There were two popular styles: monocle and also a two lensed option where it pinched over the nose to stay on the face.

Developments from the 1700s to the 1900s

The next advancement in the eyeglasses history was transforming these designs to be hands-free. Glasses were revolutionized by arms that extended over the ears so they’d rest on the face without the help of one’s hands. After this new advancement, the progression of glasses grew pretty quickly. Benjamin Franklin is a notable figure in glasses history because he is credited with the creation of the bifocal lenses in 1784. The bifocal lens allowed a person who had both nearsighted and farsighted to use one pair of glasses instead of having to switch lenses, making a much more pleasant experience for the glasses wearer. This was a big step forward in glasses history because it changed the way that people with very poor vision wore and used eyeglasses.

In the early 1800s, another advancement that helped the eyeglass reach a larger audience was the shift from glasses being handmade to mass-produced. This made them more widely available to a larger group of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This time period also provided those with astigmatism (a common vision condition that causes blurred vision) a solution for their vision problems. A special type of lenses in a cylindrical shape were created to aid their sight. This invention was created by George Airy who was an English Astronomer. Trifocals were also created in 1827 and monocles made a come back. On top of that, the first contacts were invented in 1887 by a Swiss physician. Even more, fused bi-focals were then created in 1908 which created a more together lens of the near and far sighted lenses. This allowed the lenses to be magnifying up close and to work well at a distance too.

The role of celebrities

Celebrities played a large role in glasses history and which styles gained the best popularity. For example, sunglasses started to become popular in the 1930s because famous stars started wearing them and were seen in them. It was also because new technology that filtered and polarized the sunlight had just been created a few years earlier. The era also influenced the popularity of styles that were worn. For instance, the aviator style of sunglasses that is incredibly popular nowadays was first created to help serve the needs of World War II pilots. Eyeglasses as fashion accessories became increasingly popular during this time period as well, which further developed their popularity.

The 1950s to today

Progressive lenses were created in 1959 which are multifocal lenses. People wear them so that they don’t have to switch their glasses every time they need to see close and then far away. Progressives allow the wearer to not have to wear different glasses to treat both nearsightedness and farsightedness if they suffer from both, which can often happen as one ages. This is similar to the original bifocal lenses, but progressives smoothly transition prescriptions. This was a top advancement in the eyeglasses world.

Lenses were also transformed from glass to being made of mostly plastic. This was a big deal because lenses used to be easily breakable and would shatter frequently. The change to plastic made these problems a thing of the past. The frames of glasses were also able to be made of plastic, which allowed them to be easily moldable, and they no longer had to be made of metal, wood, or glass, which were tougher. From there, glasses have continued to adapt and be modernized for today’s world. Now, many customers order their glasses online or at a retail location instead of only at their doctor’s office. The fact that people can order prescription eyeglasses and contacts at an affordable price point in the comfort of their own home has transformed the industry. Additionally, the purpose of glasses has transformed and is no longer just for those who are nearsighted and farsighted.

One of the latest developments in the glasses world is Blue Light glasses. These glasses, like the ones at Felix Gray, filter out impactful Blue Light from the screens that surround us on a daily basis, and they also help to reduce the effects of Digital Eye Strain. They are very useful for students and professionals who spend a lot of their days looking at screens. When you view your screen all day, every day, it can take a toll on your eyes. Blue blocking glasses are available both with and without a prescription, so if you wear contact lenses, prescription glasses, or nothing at all you can still benefit from Blue Light glasses.

Glasses today have become extremely modernized with uses far beyond just vision improvement. People like to wear glasses for activities like gaming and even to help with health conditions such as migraines or headaches. They are even used to care for and help treat light sensitivity issues. Gamers find gaming glasses helpful because of their proximity to a screen for long periods of time. They can suffer from several symptoms because of this extended screen time including eye fatigue, headaches, and blurry vision. Gaming glasses can help to reduce these symptoms and make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone. Migraine glasses can have similar effects for migraine and headache sufferers. Oftentimes, light is a big trigger for migraines, so these specs help to reduce the harsh effects of light. Many people suffer from light sensitivity problems due to a variety of medical conditions, and there are glasses that can help them curb their symptoms. These glasses help to make the light less painful and make the day easier to get through.

The glasses background is rich and long, with numerous interesting developments throughout places and history. From the first eyeglasses invented to the most modern pair created today, eyeglasses have certainly come a very long way. According to the Vision Council, just over three out of every four adults wear glasses or contact lenses (or some type of vision corrector). That’s a whopping 188.7 million Americans! Whether or not you currently wear glasses, chances are you’ll wear glasses at some point in your life (even if it’s non-prescription Blue Light glasses). Eyeglasses are used for both fashion and function in today’s world and have been for years. Thankfully, the evolution of eyewear has taken us to an incredible point with fun, fashion-forward options to satisfy all styles and personal preferences. This history of eyeglasses is just a summary of the world of eyeglasses from the invention of eyeglasses to what is popular today. Now hopefully you have a great answer when people ask you, ”when were eyeglasses invented”?


What is the brief history of glasses? ›

The first spectacles originated in Italy. The name of the inventor is unknown. The original design for spectacles included a frame to hold the right and left spectacle cell had a rivet [swivel motion] attached to a small strut to hold the two lenses together. A space was made between them to slide over the nose.

Why did Salvino d armate make glasses? ›

Somewhere around 1284 a new invention was created to by Salvino D'armate who invented glasses to help people see better.

What problem did glasses solve? ›

Eyeglasses correct vision problems. If you have trouble seeing clearly, either close or at a distance, eyeglasses can help. They improve how clearly and sharply you see objects at any distance. Most vision problems are related to how light focuses on the retina.

What is the oldest record of glasses? ›

One of the first recorded pair of glasses were made in 1284 by Salvino D'Armate in Italy. The lenses were made of glass or a crystal like stone with a handle to hold them up to your eyes (scissor glasses frame and later lorgnette glasses).

Who actually invented glasses? ›

It is believed that eyeglasses were first created by Salvino D'Armati in Italy during the 13th century. While we credit Salvino with this invention, it is more likely that glasses were developed by many people in late 13th-century Italy.

When did humans start wearing glasses? ›

Things started to look up for the visually challenged at the end of the 13th century, when the earliest known eyeglasses were invented in northern Italy.

What was the original purpose of glasses? ›

In general, the first glasses were used exclusively as visual aids to enable far-sighted individuals to read. Later, the first eyeglass frame temples were made by Spanish craftsmen in 1600s. They affixed ribbons of silk or strings to the frame and looped them over the user's ears.

How did glasses change the world? ›

The invention of eyeglasses has increased productivity over the ages. In the past, active, productive members of society had to stop working, writing, reading and using their hands for skillful tasks at a relatively young age. With eyeglasses, these members were able to continue their work.

Why was the invention of glasses important? ›

According to experts, glasses are the fifth most important invention since mankind discovered fire and invented the wheel. The reason: for the first time in human history, millions of people were able to enjoy good vision in spite of problems with their vision.

What are the 4 types of vision? ›

It is different in every single patient, but some visual conditions are quite common. Many of our patients have nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism or near-perfect eyesight. What is the best vision type and what is the worst?

Did humans always need glasses? ›

The first eyeglass was invented during the 13th century, but even before that people were already suffering from poor vision. Nearsightedness and farsightedness were quite common. In fact, historical accounts exist of people suffering from poor eyesight.

Why is everyone wearing glasses now? ›

Researchers believe two culprits are to blame: the lack of outdoor play, and prolonged time doing up-close activities like using digital devices.

Do you look older or younger with glasses? ›

Participants then estimated the age of the faces, displayed in random order. Contrary to the generally accepted beliefs that wearing eyeglasses makes you look older and wearing sunglasses make you look younger, our results suggest that the effect of glasses on age perception is rather small.

What is the smallest glasses ever? ›

The smallest pair of spectacles ever measure just 2 mm (0.08 in) wide and were created by the German manufacturing company, Micreon, using laser technology.

Why were glasses so big in the 80s? ›

The era was as known for rappers as it was for the 80s glasses fashion. From male to female rappers, each wanted to stand out and make way for their glory. And that's how 80s thick glasses gained popularity. Rappers like Mary J Blige gave a show to bulky frames to stick out a mile and make their presence felt.

What are glasses arms called? ›

Temples or Arms: The two long, skinny parts of your eyeglasses that attach via the hinge and stretch back to sit over your ears. They're responsible for keeping your glasses in place while you go about your day.

Where did glasses start? ›

While magnifying devices were used to read, and sunglasses made of transparent stones were used in 12th century China, glasses themselves weren't used until the 13th century in Italy. Glass blowers in Venice are responsible for creating the first-ever glasses lenses with frames around them.

Did Native Americans have glasses? ›

Long before the invention of eyeglasses with glass or plastic lenses, Alaska's indigenous inhabitants, including the Yupik people, devised their own corrective eyewear.

What did glasses first look like? ›

The Earliest Glasses

Early spectacles in the 13th century featured rudimentary lenses framed together in wood—a design that was quite difficult to balance on the nose. Instead, the wearer would typically need to hold the spectacles up to their eyes.

What happened to people before glasses were invented? ›

Ultimately, before glasses, people had to adjust and make accommodations for their vision issues. Depending on the severity of their issue, they may have just performed more poorly at certain tasks, or they may have had more significant problems.

What did glasses look like in the 1800s? ›

In the first centuries of the existence of glasses, lenses were round. Between 1810 and 1830, the oval, lighter glasses, became the most popular style in America. Then it was the turn of rectangular and octagonal glasses in the 1840s, until oval shaped spectacles came back in vogue in the 1850s.

How do glasses improve quality of life? ›

With better visual health and clarity, you can enjoy an improved quality of life. Eyeglasses can prevent drying winds, dust, and other foreign matter from entering your eyes, making them an effective way of protecting your eyes from potential irritations.

What is the most powerful vision? ›

Mantis shrimps probably have the most sophisticated vision in the animal kingdom. Their compound eyes move independently and they have 12 to 16 visual pigments compared to our three. They are the only animals known to be able to see circular polarised light.

What causes poor eyesight? ›

Some of the most common causes of low vision include age-related macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma. Low vision may also result from cancer of the eye, albinism, brain injury or inherited disorders of the eye including retinitis pigmentosa.

Do glasses correct your vision? ›

It's important to point out that glasses don't reshape your eyes or permanently fix your vision. Only eye surgery can do that. In most cases, eyesight stays about the same or gets a bit worse over time. To be clear, that isn't because of glasses—it's just a consequence of getting older.

Is it possible to never need glasses? ›

But a new form of training — brain retraining, really — may delay the inevitable age-related loss of close-range visual focus so that you won't need reading glasses. Various studies say it works, though no treatment of any kind works for everybody.

Do you wear glasses forever? ›

Will I have to wear glasses forever? You won't have to wear glasses forever if you don't want to. As you get older, you'll have more options to correct your vision, like contact lenses. Once you become an adult, you may be eligible for LASIK surgery.

Is everyone with glasses smart? ›

In reality, glasses are not actually an indicator of intelligence—unlike these habits that reveal a lot about your personality—society has just conditioned us to believe that they are! Even if you're getting your eye exams at Costco, glasses add the appearance of chic style and intellect.

How not to wear glasses anymore? ›

How to Improve Your Eye Vision Without Glasses
  1. DIET AND EXERCISE. Although diet and exercise won't cure any eye condition, the things we eat can make a difference. ...
  2. REST YOUR EYES. ...
  5. WRITE OUT ABC'S. ...
  6. UP, DOWN, AND AROUND. ...

Why can I suddenly see better without my glasses? ›

Why is that? Answer: Some call this "second sight" which has a simple physiological explanation. As the lens of the eye hardens as we age (the predecessor of frank cataracts) it changes the way light is "bent" as it enters the eye much the way different prescriptions in a pair of glasses do.

What percent of Americans wear glasses? ›

According to our analysis of more than 110,000 responses to the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Census Bureau on behalf of the National Center for Health Statistics, 62 percent of respondents said they donned some form of corrective eyewear in a recent three year-period.

What age do glasses stop working? ›

As you continue to age, presbyopia becomes more advanced. You may notice that you need to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions more frequently than you used to. Around age 60, these changes in near vision should stop, and prescription changes should occur less frequently.

Do I look better or worse without glasses? ›

A total of 517 participants were included in this study. We found significantly higher ratings for all domains of pictures without glasses compared to the same pictures with glasses. Moreover, participants not wearing glasses provided significantly higher attractiveness scores for most pictures not wearing glasses.

What color glasses are most flattering? ›

For a subdued and understated look, choose frames in a colour that match with the neutral tones in your eyes, such as brown, beige, or black. If you want to channel a fun, statement-making look, choose a colour that's contrasting but complementary to your eye colour.

What are glasses without lens called? ›

Lensless glasses are glasses that lack lenses. They are worn solely for aesthetic or fashion purposes, having no function in vision correction or eye protection. The frames are usually oversized, and commonly all black in color. They may be worn in conjunction with contact lenses.

What are glasses without frames called? ›

Rimless glasses are known for being super lightweight. These are also called frameless glasses, “no frame” glasses or glasses without frames as the arms of your frames connect directly to the lens. These glasses omit the material around the edges of your lenses and are held in place by the arms and nose bridge.

Why are old glasses so small? ›

Generally, small frames were popular even back in the day to make eyeglasses lighter to wear since lenses before were all made of glass. Today, these glasses are still the trend as they are also essential for higher prescriptions.

Why do older people wear yellow glasses? ›

The brightness of yellow tinted glasses helps increase your depth perception so that if you walk into an indoor area with less natural light, your perception is enhanced.

Why do people wear glasses that make their eyes look big? ›

On the other hand, glasses that correct hyperopia have thicker, more magnifying lenses to improve your close-distance vision, and actually make your eyes appear larger.

Why do peoples eyes look bigger with glasses? ›

“Plus” lenses are for farsightedness, and the more farsighted one is, the stronger the lens. Strong “plus” lenses cause the eyes to appear magnified. Also images seen through the lenses will appear larger than they really are.

When were glasses invented and why? ›

It is generally accepted that the invention of glasses, understood as the first pair of corrective spectacles was created in Italy sometime between 1268 and 1300, but the exact date is disputed. These were essentially two magnifying glasses (reading stones) joined by a hinge that rested on the bridge of the nose.

When were glasses invented and by who? ›

In 1801, Thomas Young was the first person to spot the uneven curvature of a cornea, known as astigmatism. He actually diagnosed this condition in himself, and later, in 1827, he invented cylindrical lenses to correct his vision.

How did eyeglasses change history? ›

The invention of eyeglasses has increased productivity over the ages. In the past, active, productive members of society had to stop working, writing, reading and using their hands for skillful tasks at a relatively young age. With eyeglasses, these members were able to continue their work.

Where were glasses first used? ›

While magnifying devices were used to read, and sunglasses made of transparent stones were used in 12th century China, glasses themselves weren't used until the 13th century in Italy. Glass blowers in Venice are responsible for creating the first-ever glasses lenses with frames around them.

Why do people wear glasses? ›

The most common reason for needing glasses is to correct blurry vision. Whether the blurry vision is in the distance (such as nearsightedness), up close (such as farsightedness), or both (such as astigmatism), glasses can be useful to provide clarity in these cases.

What were glasses called in the 1800s? ›

The 19th century saw the advent of what was called the lorgnette, two lenses in a frame held with a handle on one side. The lorgnette was popular with the ladies, many of whom would not wear spectacles, and was thus more of a fashion accessory than a visual aid.


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