Monday, September 15, 2014

Do You See What I See?


Don't you love the new look? And aren't you glad that you have adequate vision to enjoy the fancy fonts and snazzy new title of our blog? Kudos to those who made it all happen.

Carla Stewart here. I’m recovering from cataract surgery, and for the first time since second grade, I have perfect distance vision. It’s almost miraculous to me, but I am grateful that with corrective lenses through the years I’ve been able to live a near-normal existence (minus the fear of deep water and losing my glasses in the depths of the ocean and minor things like that).

Since all I’ve focused on (pun intended) for the past few weeks is vision, I’ve been drawn to learn about the evolution of glasses and what people did who had impaired vision. I was surprised by how long seeing aids have been around. Here’s a quick history (short since eye strain with the computer is still bothersome):

4 BC – 65 AD – Roman tragedian Seneca used a glass globe of water as a magnifier to read “all the books of Rome.”

Middle ages: Monks used glass spheres as magnifying glasses. Most historians credit Italian monks or craftsmen with making the first eyeglasses – two small magnifying glasses set in bone, metal or leather mountings that balanced on the bridge of the nose.

16th Century Eyeglasses - Wiki Commons
Salvino D'Armate is most often credited with the invention of the first wearable eye glasses around 1284. The convex lenses could correct both hyperopia (farsightedness or inability to see things up close)and presyopia (age-related inability to focus on near objects). Lenses to correct myopia (nearsightedness where near vision is clear but objects farther away are blurred) didn’t come into being until the beginning of the 1400’s.

13th Centurey Venetian glass blowers also produced reading stones of solid glass that were put in hand-held frames made of horn or wood (similar to magnifying lens today).

There is debate over whether the first sunglasses were developed in the Far East or the West. The Chinese used colored glass for adornment and because they believed in its magical powers, but credit for the first use of colored corrective lenses goes to James Ayscough from England in the 18th century. Modern sunglasses as we know them were invented by Sam Foster in 1929, who marketed them commercially (Foster-Grants, anyone?).

Benjamin Frankin, inventor of bifocals
In 1784, Benjamin Franklin developed bifocal glasses. He was getting old and was having trouble seeing both up-close and at a distance. Getting tired of switching between two types of glasses, he devised a way to have both types of lenses fit into the frame. Bifocals with the sections fused together were not invented until 1908.

In the 1800s eyeglasses were considered evidence of old age and infirmity. Women, in particular, preferred to wear spectacles only when they were needed. Those who could afford it found hand-held designs such as the lorgnette to avoid having glasses on their faces.

Faberge Lorgnette, Tsaritsno Musueum, courtesy of Wiki Commons
These “trendy” lorgnette glasses were developed around 1780 from scissor spectacles and had a single long handle. In 1830, a French manufacturer designed a hinged bridge with a spring, which allowed the eyeglasses to be folded.  Lorgnettes became so popular during the mid to late 1800s that manufacturers placed them into various objects including mechanical pencils, fans and even an ear trumpet.

Monocle with Gallery, Wiki Commons
A monocle is used to correct or enhance the vision in only one eye. The circular lens usually had a wire ring around the glass that could be attached to a string or wire which was then connected to the wearer's clothing to avoid losing the monocle.

By the end of the 19th Century, more people wore their eyeglasses everyday, and the pince-nez became popular. This inexpensive spectacle was French for "pinch nose," and was imported to America after the 1850s. Pince-nez have no temples, but fit snugly on the bridge of the nose.  Their popularity increased when political figures such as U.S. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge wore them regularly.
Pince-nez


Eyewear has come a long ways in two thousand years, and while contact lenses and new technologies have made vision better and better in the last half of the twentieth century, I can’t help but ponder what my life would have been like in the middle ages. Would I have been relegated to stumbling around, bumping into things or even be considered an imbecile because of my vision impairment? Thankfully, I live in modern times and have the latest technology at my fingertips. Now, if I could only remember where I put my readers, I’d have it made.

Do you wear glasses? How has that impacted your life? Leave a comment on this blog to be entered for one of the exciting giveaways that Heroes, Heroines, and History is doing this month to celebrate our new look. See details on the Rafflecopter link below for ways to enter multiple times.


Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of five novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.” Her newest release is The Hatmaker's Heart. In New York City’s Jazz Age, a na├»ve, but talented young hat designer must weigh the cost of success when the rekindled love with her childhood sweetheart is lost and her integrity in the cutthroat fashion world is tested.
Learn more about Carla at www.carlastewart.com 
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31 comments:

  1. Ah Glasses. I remember the old adage. "Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses". Probably why after wearing glasses since I was six there was a time in high school and until I was in my early twenties that I didn't wear my glasses. I could see and read without them fairly well. Now, I have trifocals and have been married to a great guy for 41 years who is always making passes at me and my glasses.
    I found this article fascinating. I have a pair of antique glasses that belonged my husband's great,great aunt. The ear pieces are long wires that are one size fits all. They can be wrapped around the ear of the wearer to adjust the fit.
    Glasses are such a blessing. I to am glad I live today.
    Cindy Huff

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    1. I'd forgotten that adage, Cindy! I remember being called "four-eyes" and hated that I had to wear glasses - it worked out for me, too. Same fella's been making passes at me for nearly 45 years (42 of them married). Your family glasses are wonderful heirlooms - thanks for sharing!

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  2. Interesting history on glasses ! I have worn mine for almost 60 years and would be lost without them !
    I was thankful when I received mine in 3rd grade as I loved to read and glasses has made that possible for me.
    I can't imagine what life was like before them, the world is definitely a better place because of medical advances in sight.
    Glad your surgery went well. Thank you

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    1. Thanks, Jackie! And yes, we're fortunate to live in an age where we have so many medical advances! From one reader to another, I agree - what would the world be like without books?

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  3. Thanks for the fascinating info on glasses. I've only worn them since my early fifties. I could probably manage most things without them, but I wouldn't be able to read--and that alone makes wearing glasses worth it. I'm glad your cataract surgery went well.

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    1. I learned a lot writing this article - I'll still need "reading" glasses - haven't been fitted for them yet so I'm relying on readers from the drug store. What would we do if we couldn't read?

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  4. Carla, interesting info--thank you! I've worn glasses all my life. I hated wearing them as a child but that changed as I matured. Never saw them as an obstacle with men. I hate it when dentists, hairdressers and photographers say "take your glasses off." I don't take these glasses off for no one. Life is short and I don't want to miss a thing.

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    1. You're a kindred soul, Margaret. I've always been very dependent on my glasses even though I rebelled against wearing them at first. I've teased my hairdresser and told her that with my new improved vision, I'll be keeping an eye on what she's doing to me!

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  5. I've worn glasses since my mid-twenties when I failed the vision test for my drivers license renewal. I had cataract surgery on both eyes several years ago when I couldn't read the street signs anymore. I am so thankful for this help for my eyesight!

    lindajhutchins@gmail.com

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    1. Ouch. Failing the driver's license vision test! Glad you can see street signs now!

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  6. I've been wearing glasses since High School and I've never had any problems with them. As I got older, my eyes (distance) has gotten worse, so my prescription has been stronger. I guess, right now, the thing that irritates me the most, is that I see just fine close-up, so I take off my glasses to do close-up work....then, I misplace them and have to go on a glasses hunt. Other than that, I don't mind wearing them.

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    1. Ooops, forgot to leave my email address: debsbunch777[at]gmail[dot]com

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    2. I hear you, Debbie! Since I've had the cataract surgery and don't have to wear my glasses all the time, I have to hunt down my readers. No more close-up vision for me. Ack! If it's not one thing it's something else :-)

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  7. I've been blessed with good vision. Once when I worked in a photo lab editing school photos for hours at a time on the computer, my eyes started giving me issues and I got a light prescription, but since the job was seasonal fortunately the problem was temporary as well.

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    1. You are indeed blessed, Heidi! Good to have you here.

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  8. I started wearing corrective lenses sometime in my teenage years. Can't remember exactly when. I am thankful for contact lenses, but do find myself wearing my glasses instead more often as I get older. I don't think much about it except when going to the beach or pool... may get corrective surgery one of these days,

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    1. Going to the beach and the pool have always bothered me. I love the water and yet don't like seeing what's going on around me. And yes, I wore contacts for a long time. Eventually, it was just easier with glasses.

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  9. I was excited to get glasses when I was in fifth grade. I thought they were cool (Yeah, I know, I had a lot to learn!) That first day I stared at the tree in the back yard, flipping the glasses up, putting them back. I couldn't believe how much better I could see the leaves.
    tlw131 [at] gmail [dot] com

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    1. I totally relate. That's how it's been with this cataract surgery - I didn't know how much I'd been missing! Glad to have you here today.

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  10. I used to wear glasses and had very poor vision. I started wearing them when I was seven years old, so for several years life without glasses was foreign to me. I remember being so excited to have my peripheral vision back when I started wearing contacts in high school. One of the best things I ever did was have LASIK corrective surgery the summer after my second year in college. I now permanently have my peripheral vision and no longer have to spend extra time cleaning and putting in my contacts or worrying about losing or breaking my glasses. I still wake up some mornings and reach for my glasses only to realize that I can see perfectly without them; it's a wonderful feeling! I am glad, though, to have had the option of glasses when I needed them. I can't imagine going through life with blurry vision all the time.

    mallori.norris@gmail.com

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    1. Mallori - this made me smile - The first thing I have done every morning is reach for my glasses and the last thing every night is to put them on the nightstand. Even though I no longer need them, I find it quite startling when they're not there. So happy for you that you have great vision now with the LASIK surgery. Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. As a child, I always wanted to wear glasses. I know, I was a little different but I just thought glasses looked neat. Not until I was about forty nine did I need aid in seeing. It was then that my arms just couldn't hold books or newspapers far enough for me to be able to see the words. Now I am a wearer of glasses and I don't mind. I am just thrilled that with them I can see those precious words.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Yay for glasses - for young and mature alike - so we can READ more books!

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  12. How interesting - I didn't know all that about glasses but I've had to use them for year. thanks for the fun post.
    truckredford(at)Gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Eliza! I always like learning new things, so some of this was new to me, too!

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  13. I have been blessed with good vision and do not wear glasses. Of course, that may change as the years progress. :) Thank you, Carla, for this interesting look at the history of glasses.

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

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    1. Britney, you are indeed blessed. Watch out when you hit 40 - nature has a funny way of upsetting the status quo!

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  14. Hi Carla! I'm so excited you're here on HHH blog now! I'm very nearsighted and have worn glasses or contacts since I was 10 y/o. However, I'm wicked jealous of you and your surgery b/c I have MS and both my neurologist and ophthalmologist said it's not a dream I'll ever get to see come true here on earth! I am grateful I've lived in the age I have so I too can/have seen all I have!
    kam110476 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Kam - I'm thrilled to be here and learning so much from my fellow lovers of history. So sorry that getting your eyes fixed is not an option, but PTL for glasses and contacts! Blessings.

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  15. I've worn readers for several years and have just last week gotten a prescription for full time glasses. I'll see how that goes! Love the new website and enjoyed your post, Carla. sm wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  16. You are full of surprises Carla! Very nice blog and glad to hear the corrective surgery was successful! Oh yes, I wear glasses as well and darn if I don't need them first thing in the morning these days! Being light sensitive, I also wear sunglasses when I go out (feels just like a movie star!). Thanks for a very informative post and God bless,

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