The Eyes Have It

There was no such thing as a optometrist in early Europe. Spectacles were invented late in the thirteenth century. But the study of optics and lenses as a formal field, did not happen until after the 17th century.

Glasses did not have side pieces to clip around the nose as they do now. Instead, spectacles balanced--teetered really--on the nose.

Interestingly, it's hard to find references to the use of lenses to correct near- or farsightedness until about 1604. And this is only in passing, a brief mention by Kepler. So I'd be curious to know more about just how effective vision correction was between the thirteen and eighteenth centuries. When I find out something, I'll let you know!

For more on glassmaking, glasses, and telescopes in the seventeenth century, see Albert Van Helden, "The Telescope in the Seventeenth Century." Isis, 1974: 38-58.

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Image: 16th Century Spectacle Maker's Catalogue, German

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  1. As a retired Optometrist, I enjoyed your post! Keep 'em coming!

  2. There are just so many fascinating aspects of history we still don't know enough about. Research for everyone!

  3. As someone who was practically born with glasses, I loved the story!

  4. I just started reading "Renaissance vision from spectacles to telescopes" by V. Ilardi (2007) so this post was right on point. You might enjoy Appendix 3, Spectacles in art; and the bibliography is huge - lots more reading to come!


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