Statistics show that around 135,000 pairs of prescription glasses are sold across Australia every week, and 5.5 million Australians buy a total of around 7 million pairs a year! Eyeglasses are an essential part of life for many people, but that hasn’t always been the case. The development of glasses as a common treatment for eyesight issues has taken centuries, with many brilliant innovators and inventors paving the way to the eyeglasses we get to wear today. At Abernethy Owens, we pride ourselves on the quality of our eye care and service that we provide. With 5 convenient locations and a team of highly trained staff we are here to assist in all your eye care needs. Let’s take a quick look into the history that now allows billions of people around the world to see clearly.
The First Glasses
While the first inventor of wearable glasses is unknown, the first image magnification technology was developed by the Romans between the years 1000 and 1250. Inventors noticed that convex shaped glass had the ability to magnify and the first simple magnifiers were born. The first wearable glasses known to history appeared in Pisa, Italy around the year 1286. These consisted of primitive glass-blown lenses set into wooden or leather frames and then held before the face or perched on the nose. As technology improved through the Renaissance, these grew in popularity and their use soon spread throughout Europe.
By the end of the 14th century, thousands of eyeglasses were being exported throughout Europe
Venice and Florence became leaders in the production, sale and innovation of eyeglasses. Glass makers in the area began to create eyeglasses in various strengths for hyperopes, presbyopes, and myopes. A complex grading system was also implemented after the realization that vision slowly declines with age. Into the 15th century, demand increased as the wearing of eyeglasses became an indication of intelligence, status, and wealth. Traders selling spectacles became common on the streets of Western Europe.
Germany became a major player in the history of eyeglasses during the 17th century
With the introduction of the first newspaper in 1665, demand for spectacles increased further. Although the Italians continued to produce the highest quality lenses, the best frames were made in Germany. During the 1700’s, glasses grew to be “hands free” with the development of arms to extend over the ears. Eyeglasses then became widely used in the United States, with the first optical shop established in Philadelphia in 1799.
The 19th Century saw huge developments
During the 1820s and 1830s, eyeglass production developed rapidly and many companies diversified their product lines which resulted in products such as telescopes, binoculars, and microscopes. This time also saw the introduction of peculiar cylindrical lenses for correcting astigmatism. Benjamin Franklin added to the versatility of glasses by inventing the bifocal lens, which allowed a person with both near and far-sighted affectation to use one pair of glasses. He did this at first by cutting lenses in half and putting them together into one frame. The start of mass production of both frames and lenses made it much simpler for working men and women to obtain the necessary eye correction.
The 1900’s saw a trend that emphasized style and fashion as well as function
The development and availability of new and improved plastics allowed for new frame styles. Frames with different shapes, materials, and colours became available for those who wanted glasses to match their face shape, eye colour, or outfit. Wearers demanded comfortable and stylish designs which displayed elegance while remaining functional. The 1980’s saw the introduction of plastic lenses. These were less breakable, and they could be made lighter and thinner than their glass predecessors. Modern technology continues to improve glasses with protective coatings that reduce glare and UV light.
Glasses today are the result of centuries of innovative technology, and have now become an important accessory that improve vision and help treat many eye conditions. For more information on finding the right glasses for you, don’t search for ‘the best optometrist near me’ simply contact the team at Abernethy Owens today. Book an appointment online now.