The question of who invented the telescope is one that is not so straightforward. The simple reason for this lies in the fact that since ancient times, people have been known to have played around with simple lenses made from rock crystal (quartz).
Added to this are the twin facts that the convex lens was invented in the late 13th century to correct eye defects, while concave lenses were invented by Nicholas of Cusa in the year 1451.
Since a basic telescope is indeed a combination of a convex and concave lens on a mounting tube, some might consider the question of who actually invented the telescope to be an open one.
However, science credits the invention of the telescope to three people, namely; Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Janssen, spectacle-makers who work together in the town of Middelburg, and Jacob Metius from the city of Alkmaar.
Generally this invention is attributed to Hans Lippershey, a native of Germany, who later acquired Dutch nationality.
Thus, on the second of October 1608, the patent application of the instrument known today as telescope was presented in Middelburg, the Netherlands. The request was submitted by glasses maker Hans Lippershey. As a consequence, the year 1608 is the year that is officially recognized as the year in which the telescope was invented.
Two weeks after Lippershey patented it, a Dutchman by the name of Zacharias Janssen, who is officially recognized as the inventor of the microscope, also tried to patent the telescope. Coincidentally, both men had been friends since their childhood days.
Hans Lippershey was a Dutch lens maker. Hans was born in Wesel, Germany in 1570 and moved to Middelburg in the Netherlands where he remained until his death in the year 1619. He had earlier gotten married in 1594 and became a Dutch citizen in 1602.
It must be stated that, before the work of Hans Lippershey, there were unsubstantiated reports of other individuals who wrote about the possibility of combining lenses to build a device that would make distant objects appear much closer. Unfortunately, there are very few reliable references on the actual construction of such a device.
For instance, mention is often made about the possible construction of a telescope by an English astronomer Thomas Harriot, who supposedly observed a comet on September 17, 1607. That comet would later be known as the Halley’s Comet. It is alleged that he did so with the aid of a telescope, but there is no independent verification of this.
However, the use of the telescope became really widespread through the work of Hans Lippershey and it wasn’t until the year 1608, in the Netherlands, when telescopes became really popular. Soon after this, telescopes began to be produced in greater numbers, and spread throughout Europe. Thus, Hans Lippershey is traditionally regarded as the inventor.
While on a visit to the city of Venice, Italian physicist, Galileo Galilei, heard about the basic operational concept behind the recently “invented” telescope. Upon his return to the city of Padova, the famous Italian began to work on building his own improved version of the telescope in 1609. He built a simple telescope by placing a convex and concave lens together in a tube and thus, he created the very first recorded astronomical telescope. He presented the same to the Venetian Senate in the same year.
Galileo Galilei made several celestial observations with his version of the telescope and his findings, to a large extent, helped to revolutionize astronomical science. However, he was not the inventor of the telescope, as some sources erroneously claim. But he is largely responsible for the predominant use of the telescope as a fundamental astronomical equipment.
The inventors and visionaries of the past have paved the way for newer and more refined technologies that we currently use today to enhance our scope and field of vision. With an ever expanding market that continues to welcome different types of telescopes, technology will only continue to improve. One day maybe someone will evolve our current telescopes and create something even more revolutionary like the inventors in the past once did.