What Are Some Examples of Optical Devices?

Optical devices include magnifying lenses, spectacles, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes and lasers. Optical devices manipulate light waves to aid in viewing or analyzing those waves to determine properties of the object in view.

Euclid’s “Optica,” dated approximately 300 B.C., is one of the earliest written works concerning the movement of light waves. However, a recovered piece of ground quartz crystal with magnification properties dates back to 700 B.C. This Nimrud lens is the topic of debate and may simply be a piece of decorative inlay.

The first written record of the magnifying ability of lenses comes from 1262, and eyeglasses came into popular use in Florence just two decades later. The late 16th and early 17th century saw the first microscopes. The improvements made upon these early instruments by Robert Hooke in 1665 provide the basis of many of the modern light microscopes still in use. The early 17th century also featured the first telescopes and binoculars.

Despite the early intention of these instruments being for military use, they soon came into public knowledge as figures such as Galileo and Isaac Newton made improvements still in use in modern telescopes. In 1960, the invention of the first laser, using a lab-created ruby rod, marked the beginning of a decade of great advancements in laser technology and research that continues today.