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Who invented Sunglasses? The Answer May Surprise You

Manny Valdes, Flickr

When you’re out in the bright sun, and you want to have some fun without squinting for hours on end, you need a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes.

It’s as simple as that, and with a bit of UV protection, you can enjoy your day, protected from blinding rays of light. Sunglasses, in one form or another, have been around for quite some time, but the trend of donning a pair of cool shades every time you step out into the sun is a fairly modern one.

Nero and the Gladiators

The Roman Emperor Nero was a great fan of gladiators and their fierce battles in the arena. It was a bloody sight he often took in, when he wasn’t too busy burning Christians, whom he loathed. In order to better enjoy the games, he would wear polished green emerald gemstones over his eyes to reduce the sun’s glare. It seems he didn’t want to be distracted by the light, or miss a moment of his favorite, gory sport.

Chinese Judges

The Chinese have come up with many great inventions over the years, from gunpowder to writing paper. Apparently, judges presiding over Chinese courts in and around the 12th century took advantage of another of their fellow countrymen’s inventions. They routinely wore smoky quartz spectacles in order to conceal their eyes and what they might be thinking during a court session. We’re not sure if the other members of the court thought these spectacles were cool or not, but it’s one of the first known uses of sunglasses by more than a select few. People working in Italian courtrooms ultimately picked up the same habit, most likely due to the flow of technology coming into Europe from the Far East.

Sunglasses for Visual Impairments

In the 18th century, James Ayscough experimented with different kinds of tinted lenses. This English optician wasn’t trying to protect an individual’s eye from the sun. His goal was actually to correct an assortment of visual impairments through the use of tinted blue and green lenses. His experiments would eventually lead to the invention of modern sunglasses, if not the cure for all that ails human eyes.

The Popularization of Sunglasses

An American by the name of Samuel Foster began selling a more modern version of sunglasses at a Woolworth store on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1929. The new fashion items were very practical and became quite a hit. In 1936, Edwin H. Land created lenses that were polarized, offering even better protection. It was also in the ’30s that Ray-Ban really came into its own, starting out with the Ray-Ban Aviator glasses worn by test pilots and American military commanders, and then moving on to Hollywood actors. Once the rich and famous got hold of these cool accessories, sunglasses became all the rage, and are still popular across the nation, and the world today.

[Glasses History]

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