The History of Glass

Glass is thought to have been created during the bronze age.

Reading glasses on closed laptop
Jonnie Miles/ Photographer's Choice/ Getty Images

Glass is an inorganic solid material that is usually clear or translucent with different colors. It is hard, brittle, and stands up to the effects of wind, rain or sun.

Glass has been used for various kinds of bottles and utensils, mirrors, windows and more. It is thought to have been first created around 3000 BC, during the bronze age. Egyptian glass beads date back to about 2500 BC.

Mosaic Glass

Modern glass originated in Alexandria during the Ptolemaic period, artisans created "mosaic glass" in which slices of colored glass were used to create decorative patterns.

Glassblowing

Glassblowing was invented during the 1st century BC by the glassmakers of Syria.

Lead Crystal Glass

During the 15th century in Venice, the first clear glass called Cristallo was invented and then heavily exported. In 1675, glassmaker George Ravenscroft invented lead crystal glass by adding lead oxide to Venetian glass.

Sheet Glass

On March 25, 1902, Irving W Colburn patented the sheet glass drawing machine, making the mass production of glass for windows possible.

Glass jars and Bottles

On August 2, 1904, a patent for a "glass shaping machine" was granted to Michael Owen. The immense production of bottles, jars and other containers owes its inception to this invention.

 

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  • Mirrors
  • Eye Glasses & Sunglasses
  • Contact Lenses

The history of mirrors dates back to ancient times when mankind first saw reflections in a pond or river and considered it magic. Polished stone or metal was used in the first early man-made mirrors. Later glass was used in combination with metals like tin, mercury, and lead to create mirrors.

Today, combining glass and metal is still the design used in almost all modern mirrors. Mirrors made by coating flat glass with silver or gold foil dates from Roman times and the inventor is unknown.

Definition of a Mirror

The definition of a mirror is a reflecting surface that forms an image of an object when light rays coming from that object fall upon the surface.

Types of Mirror

A plane mirror which is flat, reflects light without changing the image. A convex mirror looks like an upside-down bowl, in a convex mirror objects look bigger in the center. In a concave mirror which has a bowl shape, objects look smaller in the center. The concave parabolic mirror is the principal element of a reflecting telescope.

Two-way Mirrors

The two-way mirror was originally called the "transparent mirror". The first US patent goes to Emil Bloch, a subject of the Emperor of Russia residing at Cincinnati, Ohio -- U.S. patent No.720,877, dated February 17th 1903.

Just like a regular mirror there is a silver coating on the glass of a two-way mirror which when applied to the back of the glass renders the glass opaque and reflective on it's face under ordinary light conditions.

But unlike a regular mirror, a two-way mirror is transparent when strong light is flashed in the rear.

 

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  • Glass
  • Eye Glasses & Sunglasses
  • Contact Lenses

Around 1000AD, the first vision aid was invented (inventor unknown) called a reading stone, which was a glass sphere that was laid on top of the material to be read that to magnified the letters.

Around 1284 in Italy, Salvino D'Armate is credited with inventing the first wearable eye glasses. This picture is a reproduction copied from an original pair of eyeglasses dating back to the mid-1400's.

Sunglasses

Around the year 1752, eyeglass designer James Ayscough introduced his spectacles with double-hinged side pieces.

The lenses were made of tinted glass as well as clear. Ayscough felt that white glass created an offensive glaring light, that was bad to the eyes. He advised the use of green and blue glasses. Ayscough glasses were the first sunglass like eyeglasses, but they were not made to shield the eyes from the sun, they corrected for vision problems.

Foster Grants

Sam Foster started the Foster Grant Company in 1919. In 1929, Sam Foster sold the first pair of Foster Grants sunglasses at the Woolworth on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Sunglasses became popular in the 1930s.

Polarizing Sunglass Lenses

Edwin Land invented a cellophane-like polarizing filter patented in 1929. This was the first modern filter to polarize light. Polarizing celluloid became the critical element in creating polarizing sunglass lenses that reduces light glare.

In 1932, Land along with Harvard physics instructor, George Wheelwright III, founded the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories in Boston.

By 1936, Land had experimented with numerous types of Polaroid material in sunglasses and other optical devices.

In 1937, Edwin Land founded the Polaroid Corporation and began to use his filters in Polaroid sunglasses, glare-free automobile headlights and stereoscopic (3-D) photography. However, Land is best known for his invention and marketing of instant photography.

Reference Websites

  • History of Eyeglasses
    The oldest known lens was found in the ruins of ancient Nineveh and was made of polished rock crystal, an inch and one-half in diameter. The rest of the history disputes the next listing.
  • Spectacles
    Inventors Bacon, Keppler, Franklin, Airy, and Fick.
  • Bifocals
    Eye glasses that see near and far.

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  • Glass
  • Mirrors
  • Contact Lenses

Adolph Fick first thought of making glass contact lenses in 1888, but it took until 1948 when Kevin Tuohy invented the soft plastic lens for contacts to become a reality.

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  • Glass
  • Mirrors
  • Eye Glasses & Sunglasses
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Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "The History of Glass." ThoughtCo, Apr. 8, 2017, thoughtco.com/history-of-glass-1991846. Bellis, Mary. (2017, April 8). The History of Glass. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-glass-1991846 Bellis, Mary. "The History of Glass." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-glass-1991846 (accessed December 15, 2017).