Today in History: May 23

In a letter dated May 23, 1785, Benjamin Franklin refers to “my double spectacles” and proffers a sketch. This letter, and other documents, provide much of the evidence for definitively naming Franklin the inventor of bifocals. A version of a drawing from this letter is above.

He describes the difficulties that every person who wears bifocals (hello: waves to camera) encounters on their way to deciding to wear bifocals: “The same convexity of glass, through which a man sees clearest and best at the distance proper for reading, is not the best for greater distances. I therefore had formerly two pair of spectacles, which I shifted occasionally, as in travelling I sometimes read, and often wanted to regard the prospects.”

He adds, “Finding this change troublesome, and not always sufficiently ready, I had the glasses cut and half of each kind associated in the same circle. By this means, as I wear my spectacles constantly, I have only to move my eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or near, the proper glasses being always ready.”

Franklin did not come up with the term, “bifocal.” That word was first used some 50 years later, in an article that credited Franklin with the invention.

* * * *
Sterling Hayden died 30 years ago today. From “Dr. Strangelove”:

* * * *
Both Margaret Wise Brown and Scatman Crothers were born on this date in 1910. Robert Moog was born on this date in 1934. Jane Kenyon was born in 1947 on this date.

* * * *
Barbara Barrie is 85. Marvelous Marvin Hagler is 62. Buck Showalter is 60 today. Both Drew Carey and Mitch Albom are 58 today. Jewel Kilcher is 42.

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  1. loisajay · May 23, 2016

    Margaret Wise Brown….I bought so many of her books for my kids. Which I read looking up and down in my progressive lenses. The bane of those darn things….!!

    Liked by 1 person

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