How Mirrors Came to Be: Mirrors are used to reflect and refract light, which can be used to create an image on a mirror surface. Modern flat-screen LCD panels used in televisions and monitors are essentially reflection mirrors. The simplest modern mirrors are concave mirrors, as they can be made to reflect the desired image onto a flat surface but are prone to losing it unless they are adjusted regularly. Convex mirrors allow the image to be thrown in all directions; a convex mirror may be called a “spiral mirror”, as it has a spiral shape.
How Mirrors Came to Be:
The first mirror, a condensing concave mirror, was invented by the Greek physician and mathematician Aristotle around 384 B.C. and was commonly known as an Eratosthenes mirror. The mirror’s disc, an addition to the transparent body of the mirror, was later invented by Pliny the Elder in the first century A.D. The quest to make a mirror from a single piece of stone is documented by the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (361–287 B.C. ), who was an avid observer of nature and, with his open-eyed disinterest in extraneous matters, invented not only the glassed-over ancient drinking cup called the Diogenes cup, but also the earliest sandglass. The first recorded use of a mirror is in the mid-fifth century B.C.
Moreover, mirror made of polished copper was made as early as 4000 BC in Mesopotamia and approximately 3000 BC in ancient Egypt. Furthermore, it is estimated that polished stone mirrors originated in Central and South America in 2000 BC. Moreover, mirrors manufactured from other materials were occasionally produced by the ancient Egyptians, though the majority of ancient mirrors are thought to have been crafted from polished stone. An early type of manufactured mirror called a faceted mirror or a grisaille mirror dates to the 4th century AD and became very common in the Middle Ages. These mirrors were manufactured by grinding mirror ornaments of polished stone into small pieces, and then stamping or punching these pieces into molds. After several rounds of this process, mirror producers would be left with a mirror in the form of a small disc or the three-dimensional top of a pyramid. These mirror makers, known as faceted gem cutters, also employed mirrors of polished stone, glass, or pewter.
Moreover, the Ancient Mesopotamians used copper to make a portable, compact, medium-power mirror. By the third millennium BC, copper mirrors had spread to the Greco-Roman world and beyond. Many highly decorated copper mirrors and mirrors made of other materials, such as pyrite, were found in tombs throughout the Roman Empire, dating from the third century BC onwards. The Romans and Persians used iron mirrors, called “etrogim”, which the Hebrew Bible calls an “iron rim”. Most modern mirrors date from around 1600 AD. Modern mirrors have been mass-produced since the 1700s when French and Swiss craftsmen introduced the teakwood mirror.
From rocks to glass:
The Prehistory of Glass: On the Asilomar Coast, it’s not unusual to spot the remains of ancient glass jars, bottles, vases, and drinking cups. Using remote sensing, archaeologists have now discovered that these vessels, once ubiquitous in burial sites, were made from tiny grains of glass. A record of volcanic activity 4 billion years ago, in what is now modern-day Iran, suggested to scientists that glass was produced naturally from mud. But it wasn’t until a laser-beam analysis of ancient mosaics, discovered at an archaeological site in Turkey, that scientists realized this mud had been deposited in water. The chemical composition of many organic compounds found in the ancient mosaics of the site suggests that glass was produced by a process known as thermolysis.
From Mirror to Mirror:
By contrast, the polished copper mirrors from Central and South America came into use before copper had been processed, and the underlying glass or agate may have been compressed by natural erosion processes and scorching of fires. The silica was poured into a shallow metal mold, and in an artful arrangement was fired at high temperatures, which produced a brilliant, reflective glaze. Mirrors of polished copper are seen in various Mesoamerican arts and have been in use in Europe for at least 1000 years before they were first imported to North America in the mid-1600s. As North America grew in population and wealth, large quantities of mirrors were imported for household, religious and ceremonial purposes.
The first mirror had only a small pinhole; larger ones had to be held in the hands to be used. It wasn’t until the 18th century that mirrors could be made to create a full, focused image. The first handheld mirror was invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 1770s and exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1776.
It is now widely accepted that mirrors were first manufactured with sharp edges for religious and symbolic purposes. This type of mirror was known as a chariot mirror and was meant to direct the chariot driver’s eyes back along the road (some translations of the Bible call this method of conveying directions a ‘mirror of fire’) while at the same time beaming light forward to direct the driver’s vision forward. These were very useful mirrors for visibility on long journeys. Moreover, mirror making was a very labor-intensive art and took years to perfect. Although anyone was able to fashion a mirror, skilled workers could make mirrors that would reveal the gods directly to the viewer.
What improvements were made to the mirror technology?
Mirrors improved dramatically during the centuries following the creation of the first crude prototypes. The earliest large industrial mirrors were fabricated around 800 AD, with the Chinese using mirrors in the year 902. The first industry to use cheap and readily available silica glass was that of the East India Company in Britain, circa 1640. By the 18th century, mirrors were produced in abundance, by machines with complex systems of gears and rollers and glass so smooth it seemed as though the glass had been painted to a fine finish.
Conclusion: How Mirrors Came to Be
In the past decade, advances in photovoltaic technology have helped solve the problem of energy storage by allowing the development of huge numbers of solar cells, from small household units that could power a single computer to enormous industrial installations that can store solar energy for use at other times. Mirrors have been at the forefront of this revolution, with scientists setting their sights high on mirror technology that harnesses the sun’s energy. This is a challenge not just in the area of physics, but also in materials science and engineering.