Before mirrors were invented you could always look at your lovely reflection by gazing into a still pool of water. But plucking your eyebrows must have been very tricky.
Through the Looking Glass. Humans seem to be obsessed with looking at their reflection, we’re the only animal that does it as part of a daily routine, though chimps seem to enjoy it too. The earliest mirrors ever found were discovered in modern-day Turkey. They are made from obsidian, a volcanic glass that’s naturally reflective, and are more than 7,000 years old.
Since then, people have made mirrors out of polished stones, metal and crystal. A glass hand-mirror was an ancient Roman fashion accessory. According to the Roman historian Pliny, the first glass mirrors were invented about 400 BC in Sidon in the Middle East.
They were made by applying a very thin layer of gold, silver or copper to a sheet of glass. During the 19th century, processes were developed that enabled the glass surface to be coated with metal. Modern mirrors use a thin layer of aluminum on glass.
As well as the important purpose of admiring ourselves, mirrors also come in very handy for telescopes, microscopes and periscopes, seeing what’s going on behind you when you’re driving a car, and laughing at very fat and very skinny versions of yourself at fairgrounds.
Mirrors as weapons: Legend has it that the ancient mathematician and inventor Archimedes used large mirrors of polished bronze or copper to concentrate the Sun’s rays and set fire to enemy ships.
The word ‘kaleidoscope’ comes from the greek words ‘beautiful’, ‘form’ and ‘view’. If you make a kaleidoscope, you’ll see why these words are so apt!