Sept. 8, 2019 • 1 min
You may think that the leap from naked-eye observation to instrument-aided vision could be one of the greatest advances in the history of the planet. But nobody set out to invent a telescope or eyeglasses. One of the deepest and most widespread human conceptions was faith in the unaided human senses, particularly the naked eye. We do not know who invented eyeglasses, how or where. Everything we know suggests that they were invented by chance, and by a layman who had not been taught about optics. Perhaps an elderly glassmaker making glass disks for leaded windows tested a disk by looking through it and found to his delight that he could see much better. We can suspect that the inventor was not an academic, as professors would delight in boasting of their invention, and before the 13th century, we have no record by any such self-styled inventor. The Italian word lente (English 'lens' from 'lentil' - the edible seed) or lente di vetro (glass lentil) first used to describe the invention was obviously unacademic: it is clearly not the sort of word that a professor would use to describe the application of his optical theories. From the first recorded uses of eyeglasses before 1300 until the invention of the telescope nearly three hundred years later, lenses were ignored by scholars.