Tim is being measured for new glasses today. I began thinking about what it must have been like before corrective lenses. Would I have survived? My eyes focus best about six inches in front of my nose. That is not much help in spotting sneaky saber-toothed tigers in the woods or avoiding tripping over stones in the path. If I made it to maturity, I would doubtless be hunched over my stitching or cooking pot.
Spectacles worn on the nose were invented in 1284, much earlier than I realized, and people had been using magnifying lenses of various sorts before that. Think of Ben Franklin, who looked so benign with his rectangular-lensed bifocals perched on his nose. He invented bifocals in 1784. What a treasure those must have been back then. I am also remembering Lord Peter Whimsey, who often whipped out his special monacle, a sneakily-disguised forensic magnifier.
For my senior class photograph, I took off my thick, owly glasses. In the resulting photo I look myopic and empty-headed, likely because I couldn't focus on anything. I got my first contact lenses when I was 20. The boost to my self esteem was huge. Alas, the contacts no longer worked for me in middle age, when I had to keep whipping my reading glasses on and off. Ah, vanity.
The miracle of corrective lenses is a biggish blessing. Today I am not taking them for granted.