What People Did Before the Invention of Glasses

What People Did Before the Invention of Glasses

Those of us who require the assistance of modern-day optical technology to be a functional part of society would be in hot water if corrective lenses suddenly disappeared from Earth.

While the probability of eyewear vanishing into thin air is considerably low, the idea puts things into perspective and really makes you wonder what people did before glasses were invented.

Before we get into an exciting conversation about what people actually did before the invention of glasses, it’s important to understand why people require corrective lenses in the first place. It may seem a little rudimentary, but it goes deeper than just being unable to see.

Why Some People Require Vision Correction

The reason why some people need glasses stems from a myriad of medical conditions and is beyond the scope of this post. That said, the following medical conditions are the most common ones that would require a person to use corrective lenses:

  • Myopia: Commonly referred to as nearsightedness, myopia is a classic condition in which you cannot see far away objects.
  • Hyperopia: Hyperopia (farsightedness) is a condition that is the polar opposite of myopia in that you cannot clearly see nearby objects.
  • Presbyopia: This condition typically occurs after the age of 40 and is the natural loss of near focusing ability over time.
  • Macular Degeneration: Also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this condition is caused by the retina becoming deteriorated.
  • Astigmatism: An astigmatism, simply put, is a condition in which the eye isn’t perfectly round; light gets bent more in a single direction resulting in objects appearing blurry and/or distorted.
  • Cataracts: Cloudy areas form in the lens of the eye resulting in vision changes such as sensitivity to light coupled with blurry sight.

As you can see, there are a few reasons why someone would need to wear glasses. And hopefully, you can see how big of a deal it would be if prescription eyewear and reading glasses ceased to exist. But it still really makes you think about what our ancestors did before glasses when they were afflicted with vision-related conditions.

What Did People Do Before Glasses?

Before glasses were invented, there were countless ways that civilization would deal with vision issues. But, at the end of the day, people simply just dealt with not being able to see in lieu of corrective lenses while using their other four senses to adjust and accommodate as needed.

Admittingly, the answer to this age-old question is vague and mostly unknown. Even Niel Handley, a Curator of the BPA Museum at the College of Optometrist in London, noted that there’s a lot of ambiguity regarding how people dealt with vision issues pre corrective lenses.

What we do know is that it really depends on which “people” you are referring to when answering this question. For example, early nomadic tribes would shun those who had extreme vision issues and force them to survive on their own in harsh environments while religious societies were more humane and treated those with vision problems extremely well in fear of divine punishment.

The Evolution of Eyeglasses

Whether it be the newest progressive no-line bifocal reader to help with presbyopia or a prescription contact to correct an astigmatism, we are easily able to obtain the lenses we need to help us function and contribute to social progress.

That said, it took centuries of trial and error to get where we are today. The history of corrective eyewear is complex and it wasn’t until the 13th century that the spectacle was even invented. Even then, development was slow and it wasn’t until the 19th century when modern glasses really started to take their shape.

Not only are today’s glasses functional, but they are also iconic and fashionable. They come in a variety of shapes, colors, and styles from top designers such as Coach, Prada, Ray-Ban, and more. At, you’ll find the largest selection of reading glasses anywhere in the world. Shop now for free shipping and returns.

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