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A Skelding Summary

No one is really sure as to when or where glasses or spectacles, to aid the naked eye, were actually invented. Early references to spectacles were made in 1268 yet magnifying glasses or eyeglasses were already current at that time. Lenses were initially made from quartz and beryl - but optical glass was soon utilised from centres such as Nuremberg and Venice. Hugh of Provence had his portait taken with a pair in 1352 - and to prove that even the immortal were prone to blurred vision, St Jerome is captured on canvas in 1480 with a pair of specs too. Indeed, as a result, St Jerome became Patron Saint of spectacle makers.

Bifocal lenses were invented in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin, the well known American Revolutionary and kite flier. Cemented bifocals came into view in 1884 with fused and one-piece variants materialising around.

Glass contact lenses were invented by Adolf Flick in 1887 and though painful to wear people still pursued the idea because wearing glasses was a sign of afflicted sight and creeping old age.

Specs or glasses started to become a fashion accessory when advertisers realised that they symbolised wisdom. Research showed that men liked girls in oversize glasses. Just as the fan was used by women as an aid to flirting, specs now, are a raging fashion success with younger people of both sexes. And the great designer houses stepped in.

People with no eyesight problems opt for sun glasses or 'shades' which have the added benefit of sidestepping the issue of looking people 'in the eye'. Shades became cool first and 'eyewear' followed on. For those who prefer contacts though, there are now soft plastic numbers (even in tints to give you different coloured eyes) that you can wear to bed.

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By Laurence Skelding

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