A Look into The Past: Why We Are Lucky That Glasses Were Invented

Let’s be honest. We often take daily things we use for granted, don’t we? Internet, electricity, as well as many, many other things that we use every single day of our lives – we never think about how lucky we are to live in a time with these inventions. Like, for example, your pair of glasses. Have you considered what life would be without them? Probably not too different, right? Right…?

Well, the truth is that if you were born when agriculture and civilizations were only beginning to form and your eyesight wasn’t the best…you’d most likely die. Although it does sound terribly cruel for us to hear nowadays, it was common for tribes to leave people with vision problems behind since they could not help the tribe as much as others. As a result, they were often neglected, abandoned or even killed. This was especially common for tribes in harsh environments like the Arctic where it was extremely hard to survive. 

However, as centuries passed and the societies evolved, these cruel practices were left behind. As people became more religious, they started believing that treating those who needed help in such harsh ways was sinful. And all that cruelty could have been avoided if only people could have the specs that we are wearing every day…

It would be a mistake to think that things universally improved after people started helping those with visionary problems. For example, if you were born around the 16th-17th century, you definitely wouldn’t want to have any problems with your eyesight. 

Contemporary remedies for ophthalmic problems often included the use of substances that were of similar constitution for the eye. In Britain, one of the popular remedies was snail juice: a garden snail would be put on a needle, then the juice would run from the needle into the patient’s eye. Some doctors would also recommend their patients to use goose or hen’s dung before sleep, which was definitely as awful to use as it sounds.

However, it was better to use all these substances than to agree to a surgery suggested by Dr. Torture. Ophthalmic surgery was still only developing so surgeries were very invasive and painful as they were done without anesthesia. For instance, for the treatment of cataracts, there was a procedure called ‘couching’ or ‘cooching’, which involved an instrument going into the eye to physically push the cataract film back away from the eye lens. 

But when were glasses finally invented? The first glasses ever are actually speculated to have been made by the Innuit, between 100 and 600 A.D.. They were made from caribou antler, whale bone and walrus ivory but they were only used for protecting the eye and did not help any visionary problems.

The first pair of glasses for correcting vision is known to be invented back in 1285 by Salvino D’Armate. However, you would not have even recognized these glasses as they were made from bone or metal and had quartz lenses, which made them uncomfortable and heavy to wear. Moreover, you couldn’t actually wear them but you’d have to hold them in front of your eyes.

It was not until the 1300s that Venetian craftsmen started using glass instead of quartz for lenses. Several centuries passed before glasses started looking the way we know them now. In 1730, a London optician Edward Scarlett created temples that rested on the ears so glasses could be worn comfortably.

Even after that, the industry of eyewear as well as ophthalmology still had to go a long way until today, when most visionary problems can be treated easily and comfortably with a pair of fashionably designed specs that we'll happily wear every day. So…aren’t we lucky to have our glasses the way we know them today?

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