People have been using vision-correcting tools of some kind since as early as 60 A.D.

Roman philosopher Seneca from that time used a glass globe of water to magnify the text he was reading, and Emperor Nero couldn’t see gladiator fights very well without his magnifying emerald. We’re glad we don’t have to rely on these kinds of imprecise and antiquated tools, but it’s fascinating to see how vision correction has gotten to where it is now, and the long, winding road it took to get there.

Corrective Lenses Over the Centuries

It would take almost a thousand years after those emeralds and globes of water until lenses would actually be manufactured to help with reading. It was monks in 10th century Europe who came up with the idea to polish domes of transparent quartz, which they called “reading stones.” They needed these to be able to see clearly enough to do the fine details in their illuminated calligraphy. After that, it took another couple of centuries before anyone had the idea to put a couple of reading stones into frames so that they would be wearable. A Florentian named Salvino D’Armati was credited with the invention of spectacles, but scholars are skeptical that this man actually existed, so the identity of the real inventor is unknown.