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New Discoveries on the Origins of the Telescope

The origins of who invented the telescope may be lost to time but conventional wisdom, with supporting records, generally lends credence to the first telescope maker as being a Dutch spectacle maker named Hans Lippershey. In 1608 he applied for a patent for a telescope and the story goes that his son was tinkering around with lenses and held one near his eye and one at arms length – thus the telescope was born.

But some new detective work has brought to light an even earlier record of telescopes. A recently uncovered will shows a brass decorated telescope among the objects given by Don Pedro de Carolona to his widow in Barcelono in 1593. And this predates the Lippershey patent by 15 years. This isn’t proof that Don Pedro invented the telescope, it is just a record showing us that he had one.

This was investigated by a British historian Nick Pelling. He found a Spanish text from 1959 that refers to research by an optometrist called Jose Maria Simon de Guilleuma who investigated claims that a Spanish spectacle maker called Roget invented the first telescope. Simon examined wills of people in the area of Barcelona and the earliest mention of a telescope was the 1593 bequeathment of Don Pedro to his widow. Simon also found a record of a telescope belonging to a Catalan merchant Jaime Galvany. It was sold in auction in 1608.

So, the mystery of the origins of the telescope continues! Who knows, maybe we will continue to find earlier and earlier references to the remarkable instrument.

Earlier claims to the invention of the telescope:

In Napes a man named Giobvanni Battista della Porta describes the telescope in his 1593 book entitled: De Refractione.

A Florentine named Rafael Gualterotti stated that he built a spyglass in 1590

A Spanish book by Milanes Girolamo Sirtori releated

Resources if you want to investigate this further:

  • Article on Cipher Mysteries website
  • Book on The Invention of the Telescope
  • Book on Galileo’s Glassworks: The Telescope and the Mirror
  • Book on Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society) (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society) – This book deals with the history of eyeglasses from their invention in Italy ca. 1286 to the appearance of the telescope three centuries later. By the end of the 16th century eyeglasses were as common in western & central Europe as desktop computers are in western developed countries today. Eyeglasses served an important technological function at both the intellectual & practical level, not only easing the textual studies of scholars but also easing the work of craftsmen/small businessmen. An important synthesis of this book is that Florence, rather than Venice, seems to have dominated the commercial market for eyeglasses during the 15th century, when two crucial developments occurred: the ability to grind convex lenses for various levels of presbyopia & the ability to grind concave lenses for the correction of myopia. As a result, eyeglasses could be made almost to prescription by the early 17th century. Illus.

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