Who Invented Glasses, Anyway?

  • BY Zenni Optical

It’s pretty easy to take normal, everyday things for granted. But have you ever wondered who invented glasses? It’s generally believed that monks or craftsmen in Italy produced the first form of glasses between 1285-1289. However, the name of the actual person who invented them is unknown. In 1306, a monk in Pisa, Italy named Giordano da Rivalto remarked in a sermon that he knew the man who created glasses, (“one of the most useful arts on earth”), but he failed to give the person’s name. It was Rivalto, however, who coined the term “occhiali” or “eyeglasses.”

As the story also seems to go, the man who invented glasses attempted to keep the idea a secret to avoid economic competition. But a monk in Pisa, Italy named Friar Alessandro Spina knew of the design and decided to make pairs of glasses himself and then distribute them to everyone. If that’s true, then we owe a big thank you to Friar Alessandro Spina for generously sharing them with the world.

Other interesting dates in the history of glasses:

1784: Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal lenses.
1799: John McAllister, Sr. opens America’s first optical shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1800: The monocle is introduced in England.
1825: Sir George Airy designs the first lenses to correct astigmatism.
1826: John Hawkins introduces trifocal lenses.
1908: Dr. John Borsch, Jr. patents his fused bifocal lenses, which are thinner and more attractive than Franklin-style bifocals.

Glasses have come a long way – and taken some interesting turns – since the days of 13th century Italian monks. And while it would be great if the monocle suddenly came back into style, we don’t see that happening anytime soon. Luckily though, Zenni carries all of the latest styles and all at affordable prices. So whatever your style and whatever color frame you’re looking for, Zenni is here to help. Head on over to our website and check it out.