Knowledge Possessed by the Earliest People
Optical Lenses and Eyeglasses
If we go to our encyclopedia or history books, we read that lenses, be it in telescopes,
microscopes or eyeglasses, are an invention of the last 400 to 500 years. Yet, there is evidence
that early man had these devices long, long ago. In archaeologist Layard's book, "Nineveh and
Babylon", chap. viii, pp. 16-7, he tells of finding a glass "lens of considerable power" along with
two glass bowls in a chamber of the ruin called Nimroud. It is plano-convex, an inch and a half in
diameter and 9/10th of an inch thick, giving a focus at 4 ½ inches from the plane side.
Considering the intricate and extremely accurate astronomical knowledge of the earliest peoples,
it seems almost a necessity that they had some sort of devise with which to allow them to see the
heavenly bodies more closely. Pliny, who was born about 23 AD wrote that in his day "articifers
used emeralds to assist the eye, and that they were made concave the better to collect the visual
rays". (Hist. Natur., lib. Xxxvii, c. v.) He even adds that Nero used such glasses when he watched
the fights of the gladiators. Iamblichus, who wrote of the life of Pythagoras, wrote that Pythagoras
"sought to contrive instruments that should aid hearing as effectually as optic glasses and other
contrivances aided sight." (PN, p. 179.)
Pythagoras lived in the 6th century BEFORE Christ.
Plutarch speaks of mathematical instruments used by Archimedes "to manifest to the eye the
largeness of the sun". Archimedes lived during the time of Alexander. These are just a very few
of the many, many references to optical lenses. In fact, it appears that these were so common and
everyday that little was thought of the importance of writing about them. But in time, knowledge
of these devices grew less and less until it was lost until man "reinvented" the idea over 1,000
years after the last historical mention of them.