-A.D. 1000: Muslims conduct experiments w/ glass spheres. The results are eye-opening.

-1268: Friar Roger Bacon writes about using lenses for reading. The result: imprisonment. He sends the pope a pair, anyway.

-1286-7: One date for the invention of glasses in Italy. Two magnifying lenses were joined with a hinge and balanced on the nose. The unsteady had to wait for temples to be invented.


-Late 1400’s: In Western Europe, spectacles purchased easily from street peddlers. Early hipsters/intelligentsia spar over horn-rimmed pairs. Pre-glasses cures for nearsightedness include sleeping on the right side, piercing the ears, and hanging a cow’s eyes from your neck. Wearing glasses considered a big improvement.

-Early 1500’s: Concave lenses are discovered to help those who can’t see far distances. Hunters rejoice. Animals flee.

– 1586: Walter Bayley, physician to Queen Elizabeth I, writes first english book on eyesight: A Brief Treatise of the Preservation of Eyesight. Not as popular as Shakespeare’s plays.


-1665: Demand for glasses increases with the publication of the first newspaper, the London Gazette. Readers actually wanted to read the news!

-1700’s: Spectacle frames are created from silk, string, weights and rigid materials. Even the near-sighted could become athletes.

35mm original

35mm original

-1750: In France and England, glasses are an embarrassment. The wealthy use them in private or discreetly in public, as lorgnettes, sometimes jeweled. In Colonial America, the literate populace use glasses. Let social stratification begin!

-1760: Ben Franklin invents the first pair of bi-focal glasses, after arm cramps from switching glasses, while reading on a train and glancing at scenery.

-1783: John McAllister, Sr. establishes America’s first optical shop, in Philadelphia. Importing spectacles until the War of 1812, he made his own frames afterwards. When it opened in 1799, glasses were for sale in a store: imagine!

-1830: The monocle gains popularity among aristocrats. High fashion and glasses create the high-society snob.


-1840: The pince-nez style popular for men and women alike. However, a duck becomes the enduring icon for the pinchy pair: Scrooge McDuck.

-1880’s: Contact lenses developed. The large, rigid lenses improve vision but cannot be tolerated for long periods. Still, they allow people to hid their glasses.

-1920’s: Sunglasses gain fans after Hollywood stars and starlets are seen sporting them. Rumor has actors wearing them under the harsh lights on sets. They make anyone look cool!


-1939: Contact lenses made from plastic replace those made of glass, replacing glasses.

-1940’s: After the war, aviator sunglasses are associated with all things masculine and victorious.

– 1940: Blue-eyed actor Walter Hampden in the film Northwest Mounted Police becomes a brown eyed indian, a great disguise.

-1964: Over 6 million Americans now wear contacts; 65% female. “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” Dorothy Parker.

-1981: Contacts can be worn overnight. Millions of hot-to-trot singles rejoice.

-1990’s: Contact lens heyday. People could now change their eye color along with their hair!

-2012: Google Glass launched. Wearers take photos and videos, make phone calls, listen to music, use apps and more. Being a cyborg has never been so cool.

-2017: Virtual Reality headsets widely used, from folding cardboard sets to pricey boxes hung on ears: is VR better than R?