From Origin to Today – Brief History of Eyeglasses and Sunglasses

History of eyeglasses and sunglasses

If you are farsighted, nearsighted, or have astigmatism? – Your vision might get blurry when you have any of these refractive errors. Thanks to eyeglasses! – an essential tool to provide better vision, irrespective of your unique prescription need.

But getting the clear vision we enjoy today with the right prescription in hand was not that easy, until the eyeglasses came into existence.

Who invented glasses?

The inventor of eyeglasses and exactly when glasses were invented are still unknown. Although many sources claim Salvino D’Armati, a 13th-century Italian from Florence was an inventor of eyeglasses based on his epitaph. However, It was later proven a mere fraudulent claim.

Looking back to the history of eyeglasses:

No one has a clear answer – when was glass invented? However, the fascinating history of glasses is enough to reveal how every passing year has innovated the first known glasses to what we use today.

Earlier, when the idea of eyeglasses was discovered, they did not look the same as we have them today. Roman was known to first use glass spheres filled with water to magnify the text and it is also known that monks during this period used glass spheres to see the text clearly.

Glasses in their actual form – were first used in Italy in the late 1200s, where two primitive glass blown lenses made with magnifying glasses were riveted together on a wooden or leather frame and handheld against the eye.

Artworks were best to reveal the use of these glasses during the 13th century. First known art illustration to represent them was Tommaso Da Modena’s painting that displays a mock using handheld framed magnifying glasses and perch-style glasses while reading or writing manuscripts.

Although during this period glasses when Italian glass technology was becoming popular. glasses paved the way to the European market where they were prized higher, considered a status symbol, and were only made available to wealthy people.

After many years, the important innovation in optical glasses came in 1700, when handheld glasses got the temples to fix them on the ear. The historical pictures in the 16 century reveal people using hands-free glasses that sit on their ears and noses.

Not many years later, the eyeglasses designer James Ayscough redesigned the temple arms and added hinges that enable folding in glasses. Also, he introduced tinted glasses by adding a green or blue colour tint to them. as he believed tints may help in improving vision.

Morden improvement:

Morden’s development in glasses came in the 17 century when Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals fusing both concave and convex lenses into the same frame. Around the same period, cylindrical lenses were invented for astigmatism. And years later in 1850, the curl side was added to temples.

However, modern-day glasses as we have them now became popular in 1920. And now we get to enjoy the best out of them – this is again due to hundred years of innovation and research in the industry.

Some biggest development and innovations in the history of eyeglasses:

For people having weak eyesight, eyeglasses are no less than a magic wand that helps them to see everything around clearly. Undoubtedly, Eyeglasses are a great invention of humans that helps to perfect your vision. Well, the origin of eyeglasses seems too early, somewhere in 1000 B.C or in the year 1317 probably. There is no actual and sure-shot evidence from the history of eyeglasses. However, we can believe that eyeglasses came into existence in the era when Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals.

Let us throw light on the Evolution of Eyeglasses.

Evolution of Eyeglasses

The very first eyeglasses were designed such that they fit everyone irrespective of size, variety, and choices. But today the scenario has completely changed. Unlike earlier, today there are hundreds of varieties in choosing lenses and thousands of frames available out. It is quite interesting to know how these glasses evolved. Different inventors innovate the idea of eyeglasses in their customized way. This is the reason that we have so many varieties available today and looking forward to it.

How Glasses are Evolved?


Bifocal lenses are suitable for those who are suffering from visual impairment for more than one factor. Say for example, if a person is suffering from Myopia, hyperopia, and presbyopia. All these visual disorders need different attention. To deal with it, we should thank Benjamin Franklin for inventing Bifocals. Bifocals are the type of lenses that can be used to cure multiple visual disorders.


After the invention of bifocals, great inventors of the past invented trifocals. Trifocal lenses are used to cure Presbyopia. However, nowadays, it is a very common vision disorder after the age of 40. In presbyopia, a person cannot see close letters or objects. These lenses were invented by John Issac Hawkins in 1827.

Polarized Lenses:

These lenses are formed through the process of polarisation where anti-glare abilities are used to reach the comfort of your vision. This was an idea given by Edwin H. Land in 1936. These types of lenses are good for outdoor activities like tracking in the Jungles, Fishing, Mountaineering, etc.

Progressive Lenses

Progressive lenses contain different angles of vision like Spherical and cylindrical. These types of lenses are extremely helpful for people who cannot see at a distance.

Photochromic Lenses

These types of lenses are shown to be developed so that they can darken in sunlight to give a clear view. It became popular in early 2000.

A brief history of sunglasses:

When were sunglasses invented?

The earliest known fact reveals Inuit being the first to use sun google to block glare from the sun.

Not intended to shield eyes under the sun, sunglasses were first invented with a desire to hide facial expressions. China claims to invent sunglasses in the 12th century. Here the lenses for sunglasses were made from flat panes of smoky quartz. Still, they do not protect the eye from sun UV rays or help vision and are only intended to fight glare.

Some early references depict Roman emperor Nero using polished glasses to watch gladiator fights. Meanwhile, Old documents also illustrate the use of crystal sunglasses by judges in China to shield their faces while interrogating witnesses.

Tinted and polarized Sunglasses:

The sunglasses were made public when glass designer James Ayscough began experimenting with tints in the glasses. He also made the recommendation that blue and green-tinted glasses can treat some vision problems.

Sunglasses, as we use them today to protect against the sun, became popular by Sam Foster who introduced them in America and later sold them in other areas of Atlantic City and New Jersey.

The last remarkable development in the field was by Sir David Brewster. In his study in polarised light – He figured out an angle at which light on reflective surfaces may be transmitted as plane-polarized light.

Finally, these sunglasses came into the mainstream in 1936 – when Edwin H. Land patented polarized filters for sunglasses.

Eyeglasses and sunglasses – Today:

Modern technology has always improved the glasses to fit your unique needs. With the countless options of prescription glasses and sunglasses available today – we can choose the best material, style, colour depending on our vision needs and lifestyle choice.

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