The origin of vision aids such as eyeglasses, magnifying glasses, telescopes and so forth lies in the distant past and cannot be dated with precision. However, such aids certainly came into use at different times in different cultures. Early portraits and other pictures prove to a certainty, however, that remarkable well-made spectacles were in use by the end of the Middle Ages. Glass was employed for optical lenses from the very beginning, and quality improved continuously with advances in glassmaking and polishing techniques. Starting around 1970, this continuing development received new impetus from the introduction of plastics as a new material for ophthalmic lenses. Rapid progress in plastics chemistry had epoch-making effects on lens technology, and today a wide variety of materials such as CR39, PMMA and polycarbonates, with refractive indices ranging from 1.52 to 1.65, are used for this purpose. Eyeglasses have long been important on other grounds than vision correction; people wear them as adornment, because they are fashionable, to express their personality, and for other reasons. This dramatic history shows no signs of coming to an end, and more innovations are definitely ahead.