Eyeglasses: A History

As mentioned in the previous post, I’d done some illustrations for Robyn Chapman’s Hey 4-Eyes! zine. Well, here they are. It’s a brief history of eyeglasses from Emperor Nero’s Emerald to Otto Wichterle’s invention of the contact lens. The drawings are presented in reverse-chronological order. All the research was done by Robyn.
Otto Wichterle inventor of contact lenses
1961 AD. Otto Wichterle and his Merkur (a tinker-toy-like construction system) based apparatus used to develop the first contacts.

ben franklin and bifocals
1760s AD. Benjamin Franklin invents the bifocal.
 eyeglasses temples
1727 AD or so. Edward Scarlett invented the precursor to modern eyeglasses. These glasses were held in place by large spiral terminals that rested on the temples.
spectacles appear in paiting
1352 AD. The first known depiction of eyeglasses. They’re shown resting on the nose of Hugh of St. Cher in a painting by Tommaso da Modena. Since Hugh St. Cher died well before the painter was born and more than 20 years before spectacles were invented, the spectacles in the portrait are an anachronism.
reading stone and monk
700ish AD. Abbas Ibn Firnas invents first vision aid. The reading stone was a glass sphere that magnified whatever was underneath it. The drawing above depicts a grateful monk using Abbas’ invention.
nero's emerald
54-68 AD. Apparently the Roman Emperor Nero watched gladiator fights through emeralds. The earliest case of sunglasses?

Leave a Reply