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The Fascinating History of Spectacles

Dr Bikas Bhattacharya



Roman tragedian Seneca the Younger (4 BC-65 AD) read books in Rome with glass sphere filled water and this was the first texted observation of magnified vision.The identity of the man who invented reading glasses has long remained a subject of speculation.Opinions once divided between Alessandro di Spina of Pisa and Salvino degli Armati of Florence, Italy.Sometimes it has been attributed to the English scholar Roger Bacon.The first documented pair of eyeglasses is believed to have been created in Italy around 1285. Mostly used by monks, these eyeglasses or spectacles grew in popularity through the Renaissance period. During the 1600s spectacle glass frames with temples looped over the ears were first designed by Spanish craftsman.

Those new types of eyeglasses were brought to China by Spanish and Italian missionaries. Thomas Young was the first to describe and measure astigmatism (1801) using an optometer designed by him. George Biddell Airy is the pioneer person who designed and wore a spherocylindrical correction for his own astigmatic correction. George Biddell Airy also coined the term astigmatism in 1849. Coincidentally, Chauncey E Goodrich, an American scientist also discovered his own astigmatism in the same year (1827). Later glasses were designed to be held in place by ribbon or by exerting pressure on the bridge of the nose, such as with pince-nez.


Spectacles, eyeglasses, Allesandro di Spina, Roger Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, bifocal glasses, Benjamin Martin

Journal: Medical Glory Vol 6, Issue No 2, April-June, 2022


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