Virtual ophthalmic lenses gallery

The derivation of the word 'lens' comes from its shape when viewed in profile, which was considered by someone (who arguably need spectacles) to resemble a lentil. We often refer to a 'pair of glasses'...but very few spectacle lenses these days are made of glass. Most will be of plastic.

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Explore the following pages in this virtual gallery

Introduction to Ophthalmic Lenses

The very words we use for them tell us much about how spectacles were viewed in the past.

Ancient lenses

Many surviving items of jewellery from the Ancient World can be judged to have optical properties. Some could have been used, theoretically, as lenses even if their original function was entirely decorative. On this web page we present some candidates for possible inclusion in the story.

Early glass

We speak commonly of 'glasses', suggesting that the material from which our spectacle lenses are made is at least as important as the frame material. Historically, lenses have been made from various sorts of glass and indeed from other transparent materials.

Early ophthalmic lenses

A timeline of the major developments.

Optical glass

The development of specialist optical and spectacle glass.

Later ophthalmic lenses

From the Punktal lens to AR and photochromics.

Plastics lenses

Lighter and safer, but for a long time not popular; now they dominate the market.

Lens for retinitis pigmentosa

A rare specialist plastic lens for an otherwise all-too common condition.