Before spectacles were invented, short- or long-sighted people had to get very close to objects or very far away to see them. Or just live in a blur.
Perfect Vision. Looking through a lens to make something small appear bigger has been going on for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians made lenses as early as 2600 BC. The short-sighted Roman playwright, Seneca, looked through a glass globe of water in order to read books. During the Middle Ages, myopic monks looked at books through pieces of glass they called ‘reading stones’. But it was a while before anyone had the idea of strapping them to people’s heads.
No one really knows who invented specs, but in the 1200s the Fransiscan friar Roger Bacon was the first person to write about lenses and how they could be used to correct sight. There’s no evidence that he made any specs, though. The first pair probably appeared in Italy around 1300.
The earliest glasses had to be held in front of the eyes or balanced precariously on the nose. A rigid bridge wasn’t invented until the 1600s and the first spectacles with side pieces that went over the ears to stop them falling off all the time didn’t appear until about 1750.
Life through a Lens. The first wearable contact lenses were made in 1887 by Adol Eugen Fick, they covered the whole eyeball, not just the area around the pupil, and were extremely uncomfortable.
In 1936 William Feinbloom used plastic to make contact lenses easier to wear. During the 1950s and 60s contact lenses became lighter and thinner, and the first soft lenses became available in 1971.
A monocle is a circular lens for one eye only, kept in place by the eye socket. They became fashionable for wealthy men in the late 19th century. Famous monocle-wearers of more recent years include astronomer Sir Patrick Moore and former boxer Chris Eubank