If you have vision problems, you've probably already wondered how you would get by without your glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery. Would you be able to perform your everyday tasks? Would you be covered in bruises? Well, it's no surprise, but human beings have had to do without for a long time… because it was necessary for someone to discover the laws of optics, then optometry had to be invented and, had to evolve to what it has become today!

Here are 13 facts that will surprise you about the evolution of optometry:

Collage of photos of old greek architecture, a Franciscan Monk painting, a graphic of myopia and glasses with rigid temples.

1. The Greeks and the Romans discovered the laws of optics
The Greeks and the Romans, the pioneers in countless fields, were the first to study the laws of optics. They knew about light magnification and refraction but they didn't discover how to apply this knowledge to build vision aids. 

2.  Monks created the first reading aid.
In the 1240s, monks from the Franciscan Order created the first reading aid: the reading stone. They would put this polished glass of a plano-convex shape over letters to magnify them. They quickly became popular across all of Europe. They're still used as a popular paperweight today! 

3.  The first wearable eyeglasses were invented in 1284.
Salvino D'Armate is credited with inventing the first wearable eyeglasses around 1284 in Italy. By trying to find a solution to help him see, he discovered that he could correct hyperopia (farsightedness) and presbyopia through convex lenses. The user had to hold them on the bridge on his nose they were called “rivet spectacles.”

4.  It took 200 years to correct myopia!
It took almost 200 years after the invention of wearable eyeglasses in the 13th century that corrected hyperopia (farsightedness) and presbyopia to start using concave lenses: theses glasses could finally correct myopia (nearsightedness).

5.  The inventor of bifocal lenses is… Benjamin Franklin!
Benjamin Franklin was not only one of the founding fathers of the USA, a writer, publisher, political man, and naturalist he was also an inventor and is responsible for the invention of bifocal lenses. He got tired of constantly switching glasses to see near and then far, so he created lenses that were half concave, half convex.

6. Rigid eyeglass frame temples were invented 400 years after eyeglasses.
The first eyeglass frame temples were created in Spain in the 1600s: they used ribbons that they looped over the user's ears or head. Users could wear a hat over the ribbon to secure it. The Chinese then updated the invention by adding small weights to the string. But the rigid temples over the ears that we wear today were invented by the British optician Edward Scarlett in 1727.

Collage of photos of a Canadian girl during an ocular exam, a man covering his face with his hand, an elderly man wearing glasses and a younger woman wearing glasses.

7.  Vision loss is the most feared disability for Canadians.
Vision loss is the most feared disability for Canadians (69%). (Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information)

8.  80% of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
80% of vision loss is preventable or treatable. (Source: World Health Organization)

9.  Vision loss has the highest direct health care costs of any disease.
In the world, vision loss has the highest direct health care costs of any disease. They reached 15 billion dollars worldwide in 2019. (Source: Canadian Association of Optometrists)

10.  The prevalence of vision loss in Canada will increase by nearly 30% by 2030.
The prevalence of vision loss in Canada is expected to increase by nearly 30% in the next decade as a result of the aging population. (Source: Canadian Association of Optometrists)

11.  29% of the world population has a vision impairment.
Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment. That's 29% of the world population! (Source: Global Health Organisation)

12.  Elton John has a collection of 25,000 pairs of glasses.
Elton John is notorious for wearing a great array of unique, kooky, strange, funny and trendy glasses. His personal collection is said to reach over 25,000 pairs! Even after getting corrective eye surgery in 2002, the acclaimed singer and songwriter is rarely seen without a pair! In 2013, he even had to deny rumours saying he always booked a second hotel room only to store his glasses. 

13.  285 million people worldwide are blind.
285 million people worldwide are blind. Yet, 75% of all cases of visual impairment could easily have been prevented or treated. This is sadly due to the fact that 90% of blind people are unable to receive or afford eye health care since they live in underprivileged countries. (Source: World Health Organization)