When you think of the greatest inventions humankind created, answers like “the wheel”, “the printing press”, or “the internet” come readily to mind. But the importance of corrective lenses – eyeglasses, including bifocals – is frequently (apologies for the pun) overlooked. But eyeglasses for visual aid are one of the most common – and essential – tools even now in the 21st Century. However, the history of glasses is complex with many contradictory beliefs about where and when they were created.
Imagine a world without glasses. Where being able to recognize people from a distance or read a book in your lap was a major challenge, if not impossible This is how it was for centuries. People struggled with visual impairment and accepted it as a fact of life. And when corrective lenses first became available, they were a rare possession only the rich could access and afford.
The First Eyeglasses
Many believe that eyeglasses were created in Italy during the 13th Century by Salvino D’Armati. D’Armati’s invention placed two convex lenses in a wooden setting, with a shaft held together with a rivet. These early glasses were not fitted to the face. To use them, the wearer had to hold them in place.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that the eyeglasses we recognize today began taking shape. A nose bridge and temples were added to keep the eyeglasses in place. Advancements continued, including improved materials, better-designed temples, and more comfortable nose pads.
History of Bifocal Lenses
None other than Benjamin Franklin is credited with inventing bifocals in 1784. Like most of us, Franklin’s eyesight worsened as he got older, developing both near- and far-sightedness. Tired of switching between two pairs of eyeglasses, he invented “double spectacles” by cutting and then attaching the two lenses’ segments into one glass with a distinct switch between the upper and lower lenses. In 1824, Peter Williams came up with the name “bifocals” for this type of corrective eyewear. Williams would later be credited with the invention of trifocal lenses.
Although the design of today’s bifocals hasn’t changed much since Benjamin Franklin’s time, better materials, manufacturing methods, and better lens technology have evolved to make the bifocal lens more advanced and more usable.
Today’s Eyeglasses: Practical, Comfortable, and Fashionable
We frequently take our glasses (whether they be a single lens, bifocals, or trifocals) for granted – until we misplace them. Then we’re quickly reminded of the importance of our eyewear.
Eyeglasses have come a long way through history to become what they are now, including options such as contact lenses, trifocals, and corrective surgeries. But the usefulness and longevity of eyeglasses are assured. Plus, eyeglasses accentuate our own personal style and fashion sense. Your association and ASBA have a Vision Plan that can help you get the eyeglasses and the prescription that’s just right for you. Our plan includes an annual WellVision checkup and coverage on a large selection of designer eyewear. Sign up now at www.ambabenefits.com/asba-cm or call 866-979-0497.