Quote of the Day: Double Vision

 

File:Eye-chart.jpgI cannot distinguish a letter even of large print; but am happy in the invention of double spectacles, which serving for distant objects as well as near ones, make my eyes as useful to me as ever they were: If all the other defects and infirmities were as easily and cheaply remedied, it would be worth while for friends to live a good deal longer–Benjamin Franklin

Two-hundred-thirty-six years ago, on May 23, 1785, Benjamin Franklin offered a detailed description of his invention, “double spectacles,” to London optician Peter Dollond, who’d previously criticized Franklin’s idea as only good for “particular eyes.”  Franklin’s response:

By M. Dollond’s saying that my double spectacles can only serve particular eyes, I doubt he has not been rightly informed of their construction.  I imagine it will be found pretty generally true that the same convexity of glass through which a man sees clearly at a distance proper for reading is not the best for greater distances.  I therefore had formerly two pairs of spectacles which I shifted occasionally, as in traveling I sometimes read, and often wanted to regard the prospects.  Finding the change troublesome and not always sufficiently ready, I had the glasses cut and half of each kind associated in the same circle, thus–


(Franklin’s original illustration was hand-drawn, and hand-written.  This is the most common representation in use today, only because it’s more legible.)

Ben Franklin is generally credited with the invention of the bifocal lens, although there is some speculation that others may have also experimented with the concept; in any event, Franklin certainly seems to have been the first to explain the process of making them so clearly, and to provide an illustration by which others could make them as well.  Bifocal glasses (a term coined in 1824 by John Isaac Hawkins), were made with two separate pieces of glass contained in each frame until early in the twentieth century, when a method was developed for fusing the sections together into one, thus producing a stronger lens, and a less-disruptive transition between the two prescriptions.  Future advances in technology would lead to the lightweight polycarbonate lenses, the “invisible” bifocal, and the “progressive” (small “p,” non-ideological) modern lenses of today.

Benjamin Franklin, my tired old eyes salute you.  Thank you, good sir.

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  1. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Thank god for Franklin and bifocals.

    I couldn’t find anything in your prose to complain about this time.  If you were more considerate, you would leave something behind for me to chew on.

    • #1
  2. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    I’m a construction worker. I find myself in many tortuous positions, having to see as well as reach into tight spaces. 

    My neck doen’t bend backwards; sometimes I need to see close-up when I can’t tilt my head. (Especially when I have a headlamp on providing the light to see back in there. This situation provides lots of laughter. Mostly 4-letter-word-laced “laughter”.)

    So I had some safety glasses made with my prescription straight ahead, my reading glasseslevel in the bottom quarter, and – the genius part – a small sliver of reading glasses level at the top. So I can roll the old glaz-balls up to the top of the frame and center that sliver on what I’m working on. Works.

    God I hate getting old.

    (Better than the alternative though, I suppose.)

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    … something behind for me to chew on.

    Tut tut.

    • #3
  4. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    I’ll bet even old Ben couldn’t imagine the progress that has been made in vision wear. Or maybe he could. I spend a fortune on glasses. Bifocals for normal everyday wear, computer bifocals because I often need to see paperwork up close while on the computer (I don’t know how people get by using their phones for all things internet), prescription sunglasses, astigmatism lenses when I had my cataracts done…….

    • #4
  5. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    God I hate getting old.

    (Better than the alternative though, I suppose.)

    Sometimes I’m not so sure.

    • #5
  6. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    I’m a construction worker. I find myself in many tortuous positions, having to see as well as reach into tight spaces.

    My neck doen’t bend backwards; sometimes I need to see close-up when I can’t tilt my head. (Especially when I have a headlamp on providing the light to see back in there. This situation provides lots of laughter. Mostly 4-letter-word-laced “laughter”.)

    So I had some safety glasses made with my prescription straight ahead, my reading glasseslevel in the bottom quarter, and – the genius part – a small sliver of reading glasses level at the top. So I can roll the old glaz-balls up to the top of the frame and center that sliver on what I’m working on. Works.

    God I hate getting old.

    (Better than the alternative though, I suppose.)

    A friend of mine brings “upside down” bifocals (reading focal length on top, distance on bottom) to the gun range since the sight on the top of the gun is in the upper part of his field of vision, and the distant target is lower in the field of vision. 

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    A friend of mine brings “upside down” bifocals (reading focal length on top, distance on bottom) to the gun range since the sight on the top of the gun is in the upper part of his field of vision, and the distant target is lower in the field of vision.

    I was going to mention something similar to this, after reading @thescarecrow’s customized solution for his needs.  I have a pair of “upside down” granny glasses in which the 1/2 frame is above the nosepiece rather than below.  This is because, for knitting, or other craft work where I need to work very close up, I don’t wear glasses at all.  I started out looking for bifocals with clear glass in the bottom, and my longer-distance Rx on top, so that if I’m doing something like knitting, where I don’t always have to watch every stitch closely, I can engage in a conversation while still looking at people, or I can watch TV, and then look down when I have to.  For some reason, the several opticians I spoke to were reluctant to make me such.  And so I found myself taking my glasses off and putting them on again, or just not doing the things I love to do because being able to see in both cases was such a pain.  I’d often say, “I want upside down granny glasses.  You know, instead of the lenses being in my line of sight when I look down, I want nothing “down there,” and the lenses with a long-distance RX on top where I look straight out.”  And they’d laugh, and say, “Don’t be silly.  Such things don’t exist.”

    Well, I finally found someone who listened, and who said, “Sure, I know just what you mean.”

    And here mine are:

    They’re super-bizarre and ugly.  But I love them.  They’re at least 20 years old, but my distance prescription hasn’t changed so much that they’re not useful in my living room, which is where I wear them most.

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    She: Two-hundred-thirty-six years ago, on May 23, 1785, Benjamin Franklin offered a detailed description of his invention, “double spectacles,” to London optician Peter Dollond

    No doubt Dolland is the one who put the special lenses and levers in that allow you to read the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence . . .

    • #8
  9. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Did someone say Double Vision?

     

    • #9