China EyeglassesThe invention of the eyeglass has been one of the greatest advances in applied optics. Eyeglasses (or simply “glasses”) are very useful for corrective, therapeutic, and cosmetic purposes. They also convey different images in different societies.

The first precursors of eyeglasses can be found in the ancient Roman historical record, where there is evidence that some people used lenses as magnifying glasses to help them read (Emperor Nero allegedly used a lens made of emerald to watch gladiator games). The development of optics in the medieval Arab world also contributed greatly to the invention of modern eyeglasses in Europe, in the 13th century, when the use of convex and concave lenses to cure farsightedness and nearsightedness was discovered.

Contemporary eyeglasses are highly advanced, and usually made out of materials and alloys that are resistant to wear and produce little to no discomfort for the wearer. Glasses remain very popular despite the discovery of contact lenses and laser eye surgery.

Besides the corrective and therapeutic use of prescription eyeglasses, they are also very widespread for cosmetic purposes, e.g. designer eyewear to make a fashion statement. Different segments of society perceive eyeglasses in different ways–many think that glasses make the wearer look more “intelligent,” while in many teenage environments glasses can make one be singled out as a “nerd.”

For more information on prescription eyeglasses and designer eyewear, check out the “Eyewear Links” tab on this site.

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