Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: eyeglasses from Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Lenses set in frames to wear in front of the eyes to aid vision or correct vision defects (see ophthalmology, optometry). Their use for farsightedness and nearsightedness has been known since the late Middle Ages. In 1784 Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, with divided lenses for distant and near vision. Eyeglasses can also correct astigmatism. Most lenses are made of glass or plastic (lighter and more shatterproof than glass but easily scratched). Sunglass lenses are tinted to reduce glare and often treated to reduce ultraviolet light exposure. See also contact lens.

Event: eyeglasses

Keywords: eyeglasses


Summary Article: eyeglasses from The Columbia Encyclopedia

or spectacles, instrument or device for aiding and correcting defective sight. Eyeglasses usually consist of a pair of lenses mounted in a frame to hold them in position before the eyes. The first device of this kind was probably invented by Roger Bacon in the 13th cent. although similar devices are believed to have existed in ancient times in China and in the Mediterranean civilizations. Early forms were crude and clumsy and were not improved until the 18th cent. when the grinding of lenses was first based upon the principles of light refraction. Lenses are made of clear or rock crystal glass or plastic ground to suit the defect of the eye. Concave glass is used for nearsightedness, so that the rays of light are diverged. Convex lenses are used for farsightedness, so that the light rays are converged. Astigmatism is remedied by cylindrical lenses. Bifocal lenses, with a lower part for viewing objects near at hand (as in reading), were first devised by Benjamin Franklin; trifocal lenses have separate portions for near, middle distance, and distant viewing. In a progressive, multifocal, or varifocal lens, the lens is ground so as to permit viewing near objects through the lower portion and distant objects through the upper portion; in between, there in a progressive range of lens powers. Telescopic lenses are used by the near-blind. A contact lens is shaped to fit the eye and is worn under the eyelid. Incorrect eyeglasses may do harm, and lenses should be prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist and fitted by a skilled optician. Eyeglasses to protect the eyes from glare or from foreign bodies are made of tinted or polarized glass and of wire mesh. The Eskimo make and use wooden eyeglasses that have only narrow slits for eyepieces to protect the eyes from glare reflected by ice and snow.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article glasses
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Pair of lenses fitted in a frame and worn in front of the eyes to correct or assist defective vision. Common defects of the eye corrected by lenses

Full text Article EYEGLASSES AND CONTACT LENSES
National Geographic Science of Everything

Optical lenses—whether in the form of eye-glasses or contact lenses—aid vision by focusing, bending, and spreading light rays emitted or reflected b

Full text Article Eyeglasses and Contacts
Faces around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face

The wearing of eyewear—whether eyeglasses, colored contact lenses, or sunglasses—for either medical or cosmetic purposes can transform the appearanc

See more from Credo