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10 Fun Facts About the History of Sunglasses

While sunglasses are commonplace today, the history of sunglasses creation and function is quite fascinating. Here are 10 interesting facts about the history of sunglasses. 

  1. The concept of sunglasses first emerged from the Inuit over 2000 years ago when they cut slits in walrus ivory. This was done to prevent a common condition called snow blindness or UV keratitis. [1]

  2. In the 12th century, the Chinese made sunglasses lenses out of flat panes of smoky quartz. [2]

  3. One of the first uses of sunglasses was for Chinese judges to hide eye expression in court. [3]

  4. The concept of tinted spectacle lenses was first conceived in 1752 by an English optician named James Ayscough. [4]

  5. In 1929, Sam Foster became the first major sunglasses retailer in the United States. [5]

  6. Polarized sunglasses were invented in 1936. Before that sunglasses only darkened one's vision, but did not reduce glare. [6]

  7. The famous Ray Ban Aviators were invented to protect US military pilots from harsh UV light and glare at high altitudes. [7]

  8. In the early to mid 1900s, sunglasses were commonly referred to as "sun cheaters" in the United States. [8]

  9. Photochromic or transition lenses were invented in 1964 by William Armistead and Stanley Stookey. [9]

  10. Elton John has the largest collection of sunglasses in the world with over 250,000 pairs. [10]


Written by Kaleb Abbott, O.D., M.S.