Who Invented the Telescope? Did Galileo Invent the Telescope?
The telescope is credited to Hans Lippershey in 1608. The following year Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei began making improvements to its design.
The telescope design we use today can be credited to Lippershey (a lens-maker and patent holder), Galilei the important astronomer and thinker, and many unknown artisans at the time all developed telescopes, but didn’t get the patent). Since the early 1600’s many additional improvements have been made to the instrument “for seeing things far away as if they were nearby” patented by Lippershey (and many of the key improvements came from Galileo himself).
Who Should Be Credited with the Invention of the Telescope?
With inventions like this there are almost always never “true firsts”. When two or more people invent something in or around the same time it’s called multiple discovery.
The truth is Galileo was a scientist and important historical figure in retrospect, Lippershey and the rest of the first telescope makers were spectacle makers and artisans with little to no interest in science and the stars. So Galileo is important historically while the rest are noteworthy in the story of Galileo and the telescope.
TIP: Read the story of Hans Lipperhey here (it tells the story of the other lens makers).
Galileo Didn’t Invent The Telescope.
The Galilean Telescope
The first Galilean telescope was made in 1609 and had about 3x magnification. Over time, he improved the design reaching up to 30x magnification. These telescopes (now called terrestrial telescopes or spyglasses) couldn’t see into space, but rather could see upright objects on the earth that were far away.
Galileo in a nutshell.
In 1610, Galileo started using his telescope for astronomical purposes. Galileo’s 1610 paper on The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius) was the first scientific treatise to be published based on observations made through a telescope.
The discoveries he made with is improving telescopes over the next few years helped lead to his eventual discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun, which he published in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo) in 1632.
Galileo and the history of the telescope.
TIP: This lecture series on the technology throughout history by Derek de Solla Price from Yale 1976 talks about how ancient man went from hunter and gatherer to astrologer and astronomer. Lecture #7, Lecture #8, Lecture #9, Lecture #10 touch on the history of the telescope.