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Humans and mirrors

Humans and mirrors

The mirror is such an important part of part of the life of the modern man, so that we can`t imagine the life without it. It`s an interesting element of each home`s interior. And when it is in the hands of creative designers it can bring a special elegance and style in each home.

What does it take to recognize oneself in a mirror?

Humans are among the few animals who can recognize themselves in mirrors, along with a few other apes (chimps, orangutans, bonobos), and perhaps dolphins and elephants. The ‘mirror stage’ when children first recognize themselves is widely understood as a critical phase of human development.

There is an interestig recent sociological experiment - the Biami, an isolated Papua New Guinea tribe, had never seen a mirror until the mid-1970s. Anthropologists recorded their reactions when looking for the first tme into a mirror: reactions of terror and anguish, they were paralyzed. After their first startled response, covering their mouths and ducking their heads, they stood transfixed, staring at their images, only their stomach muscles betraying great tension...

Magical mirrors

Mystic people all over the world stare into reflective objects - mirrors, oil, water, crystal balls, knives ...- and go into a sort of trance. This was already practiced by Olmec shamans, Greek priestesses, Roman magicians, and medieval wizards. It is a common superstition that someone who breaks a mirror will receive seven years of bad luck. The Chinese thought that demons only became visible in mirrors, so they put them on their backs to defend themselves from malevolent forces.


In greek mythology, the mathematician Archimedes invented giant mirrors that used the sun to set Roman warships afire during an attack on Syracuse in 212 B.C. Narcissus, looking into the water, did not understand that he saw his own reflection, and fell in love with himself. Another example, this time from the german tales of the brothers Grimm, is snow white, in which the wicked queen consults a magic mirror to determine the identity of the most beautiful woman in the world....

A short history of mirror production

Egypt copper mirrors

long before man was able to make mirrors out of glass, mirrors made of metal (copper, bronze, silver, tin, etc.) were used. Sheets of metal were flattend and polished until it could be used as a mirror. Rounded forms, disks, sometimes with a design on the back, and usually with a handle.

Roman glass mirrors

Glass mirrors were invented at Sidon in the first century AD. Surviving examples date earliest to the second century AD. After the discovery of glass making, the Romans made mirrors out of glass by finishing them with a metall layer. In Roman graves dating from the second and third century there were also found pieces of glass covered with lead.

Middle Ages

After the discovery of glassblowing in the 14th century, mirrors were made out of glass bulbs. After cooling the bulbs, they were cut in pieces, thus forming little hollow (convex) mirrors. Although these mirrors did not have a perfect reflection

Renaissance mercury mirror

A method of backing a plate of flat glass with a thin sheet of reflecting metal (tin/mercury amalgam - the reflecting layer of mercury on mirrors existed out of 75% of tin and approximatly 25% mercury. ) came into widespread production on the Italian island of Murano, near Venice during the 16th century. The mirror-makers perfected a method of backing larger sheets of glass. In the first act of industrial espionage, the French under Louis XIV bribed Murano experts to come to Paris.

19th century silver mirror

The chemical process of coating a glass surface with metallic silver was discovered in the 19th century. This advance inaugurated the modern techniques of mirror making. The technique is said to be invented by the German Justus von Liebig in 1835.

Present-day mirrors are made by sputtering a thin layer of molten aluminum or silver onto the back of a plate of glass in a vacuum.

Common uses

Mirrors are used:

- for inspecting parts of one's body which are difficult or impossible to see directly, such as the face, neck or the whole body.

- for self-contemplation.

- rear-view mirrors are applied in and on vehicles (such as cars, or bicycles), to allow drivers to see other vehicles coming up behind them.

- rounded (convex) mirrors are sometimes placed at road junctions, and corners of places such as parking lots allowing people to see around corners to avoid crashing into other vehicles.

- mirrors are also sometimes used as part of security systems, so that a single video camera can show more than one angle at a time.

- interior decoration to create an illusion of space

- telescopes and other precision

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