The eyes are the spoons of speech.
The first contact lenses were invented in Germany in the 1880s and were made of ground glass. Unfortunately they could only be worn for two or three hours at most; after that they started to seriously irritate the eye. One pioneer, August Müller, could only tolerate his lenses for half an hour if he also took cocaine as an anaesthetic (plus, they had to be inserted underwater to prevent air bubbles getting caught between the eye and the lens).
Contacts were initially invented to conceal eye damage or protect people’s eyes against a condition called keratoconus, which makes eyes extremely sensitive. Soon, however, it was realised that lenses could be used to correct vision instead. The first proto-lenses were made by chopping the round bits off the bottom of glass test tubes and grinding them down. Another innovator took moulds from the eyes of people in Zurich's mortuary.
Corrective lenses were originally aimed at young women as beauty aids. Unfortunately, even in the 1920s and 1930s they cost as much as a car, so they were mainly advertised to wealthy fathers who wanted to free their daughters from the curse of a bespectacled life. They weren't hygienic either: early customers were given a cloth to wipe their lenses with and told to lubricate them with spit.
The first soft contact lenses were supplied in glass vials which had to be broken to access the lens, meaning there was a risk of shards of broken glass right near your brand new lenses.
What we see depends mainly on what we look for.
Spectacles were invented in the 1270s but were originally only useful for the over-40s, because the lenses could only fix presbyopia (long-sightedness). Myopia (short-sightedness) couldn't be corrected for another 300 years.
It took about 500 years after spectacles were invented before anyone thought of putting sides on them to help them stay on (opticians call them ‘sides’, and get annoyed when you call them 'arms', or even worse, 'little handley ear-grippy things').
If you’ve ever seen the tortoiseshell-framed glasses that were common in the 1960s, and worried about the tortoises, you can relax – the sides are not made of tortoises. Unfortunately, they are made of turtles – normally Hawksbill Turtles. Turtle shells were used to make many spectacle frames throughout the 20th century. Hence, opticians traditionally kept a stuffed turtle in the window of their shop to display their line of work. This has been illegal since 1970, as has been making spectacle frames out of them – opticians are only allowed to use up existing stocks. Thanks to the traditional link, the Spectacle Makers of London used to eat turtle soup at formal dinners.
A buzzard can spot a rabbit flicking its ears from two miles away
The images on night vision goggles are green because you can see more shades and detail in green than in any other colour.
The poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti had such bad eyesight that he wore two pairs of spectacles on top of each other.
Handel and Bach had the same eye surgeon; they both went blind after he operated on them.
Can carrots help you see in the dark? Not really. The convoluted story behind the rumour comes from the Second World War. In WWII, everyone had radar, but in 1940 only the British had an airborne version, which planes could carry on board to spot enemy aircraft. This led to some nocturnal successes against the Luftwaffe, who had been bombing in heavy cloud so that RAF pilots couldn’t find them. Once the airborne radar was installed, British pilots found it much easier to their opponents down. Group Captain John Cunningham of the RAF’s 604 Squadron gained the nickname ‘Cat’s Eyes Cunningham’ as a result.
There were rumours – although it’s hard to know how many people actually believed them – that RAF pilots could see better in the dark because they ate more carrots. Official sources encouraged the story for a few reasons. Firstly, the airborne radar was top secret and any disinformation would help to prevent the Germans from finding out about it. Secondly, it was good for morale. And finally, it was a good way to encourage children to eat carrots, one of the few foods available in large supplies.
However, there is one way that carrots can help you see in the dark – but only if your night vision is impaired. The condition ‘night blindness’, the main symptom of which is defective vision in the dark, is best treated by increasing your consumption of Vitamin A, which is found in carrots (and even more so in spinach and apricots). If you don’t already suffer from night blindness, though, they won’t do you much good.
What is a man’s eye, but a machine for the little creature that sits behind his brain to look through?
It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say 'It's as plain as the nose on your face.' But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?
15% of labradors are short-sighted. Some guide dogs are so short-sighted that, if they were human, they would have to wear glasses.
There are two saints of eye-health: Saint Lucia, who carries her eyes on a plate, and Saint Odilia, who carries them on a bible.