The history of an eye exam follows closely, nearly identically, with the progression of optometry. Though biological discoveries and techniques developed at a slower pace (as you needed actual eyes to dissect and as you can imagine there was not exactly a large line of willing volunteers), knowledge of light, lenses, and their effects on vision became an established art as early as the 13th century, according to some records. But eye exams as we know them today, went through quite a journey before they ended up as the comprehensive (and rather expensive) ordeals that we know now.
As the art of making eyeglasses began to catch in Western society (it was already generally established in China and other eastern countries), scientists began making large progressions in the study of lenses, prisms, mirrors, and how they interact with light (reflection and refraction as we know them today). These developments came with a methodology (though generally varied and far from centralized) of prescribing different lenses for for those with near and farsightedness and eventually those with astigmatism, however no one had named any of these conditions nor did they have any real grasp as to what, anatomically speaking, they were. Though the prescription of lenses was usually reserved only for those who could afford the process and the spectacles themselves, the prescriptions were based on a series of practical tests of vision rather than anything involving the structural anatomy of the eye, as is common in modern eye exams.
Philosophical opinions of the eye date back to ancient Greece, India, and the Middle East. Philosophies changed as new structures of thought became popular and as theories from different cultures were translated and circulated through different circles. However in the Italian Renaissance of the 15th century, one Leonardo da Vinci transformed the theories of vision as he learned more and more about the anatomy of the eye. As scientific discovery and anatomical experimentation forged onward, scientists were able to establish what biological components in our eyes function in order to produce vision. Such knowledge could then be applied to the previous body of knowledge about lenses and prescriptions, placing a ‘why’ to the ‘how.’
With the invention of the internet allowed scientists to communicate, collaborate, and centralize information, furthermore allowing scientists to come to agreement about research, biology, anatomy, and diseases. Such things allow optometrists proper training and access to all the latest information that is peer reviewed, scientifically accurate, and useful for both eye professionals and their patients. These developments have shaped the modern comprehensive eye test as we know them today. For more on what is involved in a regular comprehensive eye test, be sure to read my other post written on what to expect during an eye exam. Along with modern anatomical knowledge and scientific procedures, came the invention of LASIK and laser science in procedures to correct impaired vision. Though a generally expensive procedure, laser surgery has the potential to permanently correct impaired vision.
Here at Dualens, we sell eyewear that is affordable and accessible to everyone. This venture would not have been possible if not for those few who forged scientific progress and made the science of seeing, of light and refraction, and of lenses and optic nerves accessible to us all. Be sure to browse our website for an expansive collection of eyewear and contact lenses, both stylish and available to everyone.