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Ancient Inventions (1400s and Earlier) Part 2

Where would we be if those suffering eye problems were not able to enjoy the gift of accurate sight? What about writing a letter to a friend or mailing a postcard? Can you imagine a campfire without Smores? Without these inventions, our lives could be quite different today. In this article, you will learn about eyeglasses, gunpowder, marshmallows, and paper.

Eyeglasses

Between 1268 and 1284, farsighted vision correction in the form of eyeglasses with convex lenses is said to have been invented in Italy during this time. It is believed that either Salvino D’Armate of Pisa or by Alessandro Spina of Florence was the first to produce such an invention. At the same time, early glasses were also being created in China; therefore the exact inventor to grab first dibs on credit is unclear.

The first eyeglasses were not made with arms and simply perched on the bridge of the nose. Treating nearsightedness would take more than 1,000 years to find a solution, as concave lenses were not invented until the 1400s.

During the 1600s, glasses with arms were invented, yet Benjamin Franklin invented the combination of convex and concave lenses to correct individuals suffering both nearsightedness and farsightedness about 1775. These were called bifocals. In 1752, James Ayscough would come up with glasses with hinged arms, and also became the first person to create sunglasses by using green- and blue-tinted lenses.

Gunpowder

In China, gunpowder was an invention that launched during the 1000s. The Chinese used potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulphur, and charcoal to make gunpowder, which they made fireworks, signals, and in later years, weapons to use in times of battle.

Marshmallow

Without marshmallows, there would be no S’mores or decoration for hot chocolate. Ancient Egyptians (about more than 3,000 years ago) first produced this sweet, gooey treat. The Egyptians fashioned the candy by using the root of the marshmallow plant, which grew in surrounding marshes. Today, the marshmallows we eat do not contain mallow root, but are instead substituted with gelatin.

Paper

Wood pulp and other fibrous materials are responsible for the object we use to express ourselves through the written word. About 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians found a way to transform the papyrus plant into usable paper. The plant was used to make thin sheets of paper, which came from papyrus pith, which was soaked in water and then pressed together with the grains at right angles. The material was then dried with the sticky sap of the plant generated into thin sheets. In the end, a durable writing surface was created. Situated in the Nile Valley of Egypt, papyrus is a grass-like plant with aquatic characteristics.

Another paper invention was invented in AD 105, when Ts’ai Lun (a Chinese official and member of the Chinese Imperial Court) found a way to grind plant material into a pulp, where it was later formed into thin sheets. Later, the sheets dry to make its final form. This process was embraced about 2,000 years ago, where he used silk waste during production. Additionally, early Chinese paper also relied on the bark of the mulberry tree and other plant fibers.