Since the dawn of the modern metallurgy, science and engineering, inventors from early civilizations tried to solve the problem of bad eyesight. With their endless efforts, discovery of new materials, manufacturing processes and sciences, modern mankind finally conquered the secret of the corrective lenses.
Earliest evidence of eyesight magnification comes from the exploits of the Ancient Egyptian engineers in the 5th century BC. Technology of creating simple glass lenses came to Rome, where they were used in 1st century AD by Roman Emperor Nero. It was recorded that Seneca the Younger introduced corrective glasses to Nero as device that can enlarge letters to their clear form, no matter how small they are. These early versions of lenses soon became almost forgotten, sitting on the fringe of history for more than thousand years, until the arrival of Renaissance. One of the most pivotal moments in the history of corrective lenses came in 12th century AD when the Latin translation of the Muslim mathematician and scientist Alhazen introduced European inventors with the properties of the convex lens. With this knowledge, Italian inventors created first eyeglasses in 13th century, and ever since then technology and science surrounding corrective lenses started growing and evolving. Only few decades after fist European corrective lens, Italian friar Dominican friar Giordano da Pisa showcased the world’s first eyeglasses in 1286. His designs were soon used by his several colleagues, and by 1301 town of Venice introduced first guild regulations for manufacturing eyeglasses. Some 100 years later, German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer Johannes Kepler published his explanation on the subject on why convex and concave lenses can correct farsightedness or nearsightedness.
As centuries went on, inventors from all around the world worked on developing new types of lenses and frames that would alleviate the problems with many optical defects of the eye. Famous American inventor and polymath Benjamin Franklin is credited as the discovered bifocals – lenses that have two distinct optical powers that are used by people who have more complicated eye problems. In 1825, British astronomer George Airy created first eyeglasses that corrected Astigmatism, inability of the eye to focus an object into sharp look. Advancement of spectacle frames brought new ways to use corrective lenses.
Discovery of new manufacturing processes enabled engineers and inventors to start developing transparent lenses that could be placed directly on the eye. After a long and eventful time of invention between 1800s and 1970s, modern industry of contact lenses was born.