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Benjamin Franklin, Yes That One, Developed The Bifocal Lenses

On June 6th we can see clearly and look good doing it as we celebrate National Eyewear Day.

  • Spectacles have been around for about seven centuries, but early versions were only worn by monks and scholars.
  • It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press in 1452 and an increase in literacy that the demand for eyewear grew as well.
  • The first vision aid was invented around 1000 AD. It was called a reading stone – a small glass sphere that was placed on top of small letters and texts to magnify them for easy reading.
  • Wearable eyeglasses can be traced back to Italy around 1284. The first eyeglasses were simply glass lenses mounted on heavy frames that were held up manually or worn on the nose. These frames were made of natural materials like wood, copper, leather and bone.
  • According to studies and research all around the world, 50% of the world’s population may need to wear some form of glasses or corrective lenses.
  • Early Spanish eyeglass manufacturers fixed ribbons to the lenses and looped the ribbons on the wearer’s ears to keep them from constantly slipping down the nose. This led to the eventual creation of the modern temple arms that allow glasses to rest comfortably on the bridge of the nose and on top of the ears without slipping in the 1700s.
  • Despite its name, glasses aren’t actually made with glass! At least not the modern ones. Today, lenses are made of high-tech plastics that can be treated to have a filter to protect eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. These lenses are thinner, lighter and more durable than glass because they don’t break easily and are more scratch-resistant.
  • We all know that Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father of the United States and inventor of the lightning rod, but did you know he also developed the bifocal lenses? Benjamin Franklin was both near and far-sighted and had two pairs of glasses. Tired of switching between glasses all the time, he cut the lenses from his two pairs of spectacles and put half of each lens in a single frame. The top lens aided with seeing distant objects, and the lower lenses at the bottom helped with reading and seeing nearby objects.
  • Singer and songwriter Sir Elton John’s love for wacky and unique glasses are no secret. His personal glasses collection boasts of more than 25,000 pairs and growing.
  • Before Tom Cruise and Top Gun, Ray-ban aviator sunglasses were originally designed for pilots in the US military to protect their eyes while flying, hence the name ‘aviator’.
  • Sunglasses were “invented” 2,000 years ago. The Inuit (eskimos) created snow goggles from animal bone, leather and wood. There were small slits that allowed only the tiniest of light through. This effectively shielded the eyes from the blinding glare of sunlight reflected off the snow.
  • Italian eyeglass conglomerate Luxottica owns nearly every popular brand of sunglasses sold worldwide as well as Sunglass Hut.
  • Polaroid sunglasses offering protection from UV rays were invented in 1936. Before then, tinted sunglasses only reduced the glare of sunlight exposed to the eye.
  • In the United States, someone loses, breaks or sits on a pair of sunglasses every 14 minutes.
  • First appearing in 1953 and worn by countless celebrities, from James Dean to Andy Warhol to Tom Cruise, the Ray Ban Wayfarer is reported to be the best-selling style in history.


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