History of eyeglasses

Interesting Facts from the History of Glasses

From eyeglasses to contact lenses, we at Mission Creek Optometry in Kelowna can help you with all your vision correction needs. Eyeglasses are a marvel of human ingenuity and have a long and fascinating history. Here are just a few fun facts from the history of eyeglasses:


  • Before the invention of glasses, some people used what was known as a “reading stone” to help correct their vision. These were small, semi-spherical glass objects that could be moved across a page and that would magnify the text underneath them.
  • Eyeglasses similar to what you might find today were most likely invented in Pisa, Italy in the late thirteenth century. They were so popular that just a couple of decades after they were invented, their production and sale were already regulated by local guilds of craftsmen.
  • The first known documented picture of someone wearing glasses is Tomasso da Modena’s painting of the scholar Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher from 1352. 
  • One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, is generally considered to have first come up with the idea of bifocals. These are glasses that have at least two different kinds of curve to them so that people with various eye problems can have a single pair of glasses that can correct them all.
  • Although he didn’t have the technology to actually construct them, Leonardo da Vinci was the first one we know about to think up the idea of contact lenses. In his 1508 Codex of the Eye he imagined various ways to augment our vision in an effort to better understand how the human body works. 
  • The first successful contact lenses were made in Germany in 1888. An ophthalmologist named Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick created them, though they were uncomfortable enough that they could only be worn for a few hours.
  • For most of their history, eyeglasses were not a popular choice. It wasn’t until Hollywood actors such as Harold Lloyd in the 1920s and pop musicians such as Buddy Holly in the 1960s wore them that they started to be considered an acceptable fashion choice.
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