Pardon the pun, but the world was a much blurrier place before glasses were invented. The story of who came up with the idea of putting two pieces of glass together to let people see better, far away or close up, is one of those wonderful stories that are so hard to reconstruct because their various fragments originate in different places and situations.
From Magnifying to Contact Lenses
The German word for glasses is Brille. It comes from beryl, a mineral that was used as early as in the 14th century to cut semi-precious stones and use them as lenses for glasses. Some claim spectacles were invented in Tuscany. Others cite Murano, possibly a much more credible story, or more generally Veneto. The use of polished lenses can be traced back to ancient history – Cicero mentioned them – or faraway countries: just think of the Arab astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Heitham.
The first glasses looked more like magnifying lenses than the ones we gently place on our nose nowadays. Still, they did their job, i.e. improving eyesight. It was indeed one of the first uses of technology to improve the abilities of the human body.
Magnifying lenses paved the way for contact lenses, mankind’s next great stride toward a ‘sharper’ world. Then one day – as is true of most major developments in history – laser surgery came about out of the blue and helped us get rid of eyeglasses.
Laser Surgery for the Correction of Vision Problems
As an ophthalmologist, I love glasses. Don’t get me wrong, I love them as a design object meant to brighten up our face and not cause discomfort. I also love lenses, both glass and contact lenses, for the technological evolution behind them. In fact, technology makes them more and more customizable and constantly adds new functions for better vision even in the direct sunlight. So, yes, I do love glasses. Still, if I could choose, I wouldn’t have a doubt: I would keep sunglasses and get rid of eyeglasses. Appreciating glasses as an object of beauty, I’d rather be able to choose them and not depend on them.
What about you? Do you really want to keep depending on a pair of lenses?