Spectacles and other vision aids are more than optical devices; they are also a bridge between fashion and science. Truly appreciate how no other scientific instrument has been so greatly influenced by trends in art, fashion, history and religion.

“Windows to the World” analyzes the historical development of a wide variety of vision aids, instruments, and artifacts from around the world, tracing their history from the earliest beginnings to today. Among the artifacts included are: spectacles from ancient China to the present day; lenses for sun, glare, and industrial eye protection; opera glasses, field glasses and binoculars; monocles and lorgnettes; diagnostic and surgical instruments dating back to the 19th century; and works of art portraying optical devices throughout history.

The collection represented in this exhibit was donated to the Museum in 2002 by J. William Rosenthal MD, FICS. Dr. Rosenthal is the author of an essential reference source on ophthalmic history, Spectacles and Other Vision Aids: A Guide to Collecting (San Francisco: Norman Publishing, 1996).

Header Image: “Watercolor of a nun with a bleeding eye,” from the Arzneibuch Compendium of popular medicine and surgery (1675)