History of Eyeglasses

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Italy is known for pizza, pasta and wine. But, did you know that it is also well-known for a non-food item that many of us wear on our face every day so we can see the world around us clearly? That would be eyeglasses.

And then there were eyeglasses

The first pair of eyeglasses were most likely created by monks in Pisa, Italy, around 1285. This first pair were similar to two small magnifying eyeglasses set in bone, metal or leather mountings that would be balanced on the wearer’s nose.  These early eyeglasses were used to assist scholars in writing and reading manuscripts with small type. Eyeglasses were first featured in a painting by Tommaso da Modena in 1352. In the painting, de Modena depicts a monk reading a manuscript with eyeglasses perched on his nose.

Eyeglasses that helped people with their farsightedness were introduced later, in the early 1400s.

Eyeglasses evolve

The first eyeglass frame temples were made by Spanish craftsmen in 1600s. They fitted ribbons of silk or strings to the frame and looped them over the user’s ears. These new eyeglasses were brought to China by Spanish and Italian missionaries. Instead of making loops, the Chinese attached small metal weights to the strings. In 1730 optician Edward Scarlett designed rigid temples that rest atop the wearer’s ears.

Well-known American inventor Benjamin Franklin, who had nearsightedness issues as he aged, is credited with inventing the first bifocal.  As he wrote to his friend George Whatley in 1784 that he was “happy in the invention of double spectacles, which serving for distant objects as well as near ones, make my eyes as useful to me as ever they were.”

Fashion accessories and more

Over the years, despite the emergence of contact lenses and Lasik laser corrective eye surgery, eyeglasses continue to be worn by millions around the globe. High fashion designers also display their eyeglasses and sunglasses on runways and ad campaigns as a fashion accessory.

Glasses have become more than just a medical device to be able to see better.  Smart glasses have hit the market. VSP Global® recently launched Level™, the next generation of smart glasses with activity-tracking technology.  These new glasses can track your steps, distance traveled, overall active minutes, and calories burned. From a pair of small magnifying eyeglasses to eyeglasses that allow you to live a healthy lifestyle, the future of eyewear seems to be limitless.

Finally, if you’re looking to make history in your own pair of glasses, but need vision coverage, visit VSPDirect.com. VSP Individual Vision Plans cover everything you’d expect from a vision plan: a comprehensive eye exam, frames, lenses, and more.

This is a guest post from VSP employee, Ross V.


  • rodney kalman says:

    I already have v.s.p.

  • Tra says:

    I was hoping this article would address the evolution of progressive and lens technology and darkening lenses would love to know about that.

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