600-year history of close-up glasses

In the 13th century, Europe had hand-held convex lenses to overcome farsightedness but it was not until 200 years later that glasses for nearsighted people appeared.

Myopia is a common problem in modern times. Recently, the former chief executive and incumbent leader of the world's largest technology forum Reddit went near-sight surgery to ensure the ability to survive in the midst of a chaotic crowd without glasses. close.

Looking at the past, how do myopia people manage when the type of glasses they have not been invented?

According to Neil Handley, curator of the College of Optometrists museum in London, there is not much information about how myopia responds to this disease before the 15th century.

Aristotle may have had the first observations of nearsightedness in about 350 BC. Because the eyeball of the nearsighted person is too long, only objects that are close to it can be seen clearly, and distant objects tend to be blurred.

In the 13th century, Europe had portable convex lenses to overcome farsightedness. It was not until 200 years later that glasses for nearsighted people appeared. One of the first close-up glasses was Pope Leo X, a prestigious Medici family member, who was nearsighted. The glass that appeared in his portrait was painted by Italian master Raphael in the early 16th century, with a divergent lens, clearly used for nearsighted people.

Picture 1 of 600-year history of close-up glasses
Painting people holding glasses in Germany, 15th century. (Photo: DeAgostini).

The proportion of nearsighted people has increased dramatically in recent decades. Researchers predict half of the world's population will be near by 2050.

A study of College of Optometrists showed that the prevalence of nearsightedness is twice that of British children compared to the 1960s. In some Asian countries, myopia is even more worrying. As in Seoul, South Korea, about 95% of men aged 19 are nearsighted.

While some people blame genetic causes or the use of a variety of devices such as computers, telephones, and televisions, other researchers find that children spend less time outdoors doing nearsightedness. higher.

Regardless of the cause, there is a possibility that myopia only affects a few people in the past. Handley argues that myopia glasses are late, showing that the number of people with short-sightedness is not much and is not a priority to be treated. They may have coped with nearsightedness by adjusting in their lifestyle or choosing jobs that fit their observations instead of trying to cure them.

Historically, nearsighted people have been highly regarded in craftsmanship, as in medieval European monasteries, where decorated Bible manuscripts and drawings require small, precise strokes.

"Rather than trying to correct nearsightedness, people are encouraged to maintain this condition because it is ideal for work," Handley said. "There is even some evidence that people also try to breed people together with the hope of producing nearsighted children who have a future to become a manuscript decorator. This is how society is adapted. With myopia, it is true that the ancients did not consider it a disability. "

Unfortunately, we do not need to look back to see the nearsighted people without glasses to use. The "lack of glasses" future that feared millionaires have become reality with some people today. More than one billion people, perhaps up to 2.5 billion people worldwide, need glasses, but there are no glasses to correct various visual impairments, according to the New York Times . This is an alarming public health problem, especially in developing countries, where vision problems have not been focused on treatment, hindering learning, leading to traffic accidents and hindering task.

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