History of the microscope

Who invented the telescope?
Hans Lippershey

Hans Lippershey (1570 - September 1619), was born in western Germany, but re-settled in Middelburg in the Netherlands in 1594, marrying the same year and becoming a Dutch citizen in 1602. Lippershey was a lens maker, often credited as being the inventor of the telescope, being the first person to create and disseminate the designs for the first practical telescope. However, like the invention of the microscope, there is some debate as to who invented telescope. The practical exploitation of the instrument was certainly achieved and came to public attention in the Netherlands at about 1608, but the credit of the original invention has been claimed on behalf of three individuals: Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Jansen, and Jacob Metius.

Telescope history

Some telescopes and spyglasses may have been created much earlier, but Lippershey is believed to be the first to apply for a patent for his design, a few weeks before Jacob Metius (a Dutch instrument maker and optician), and making it available for general use in 1608. Although he failed to receive a patent, he was handsomely rewarded by the Dutch government for copies of his design. The telescope invented by Lippershey had a magnification of just 3x.

However, although the invention of the telescope is generally credited to Lippershey, there is some evidence, that the principles of telescopes were known in the late 16th century.

Did Hans Lippershey invent the microscope?

Both Lippershey and Jansen lived in Middelburg in the Netherlands and whilst Lippershey is generally credited with inventing the telescope, Jansen is credited for inventing the microscope. Although Zacharias Jansen may stake a more legitimate claim to have invented the telescope, Lippershey's role in the invention of the microscope is more questionable. The Dutch diplomat William Boreel, who was apparently an acquaintance of both Jansen and Lippershey in Middleburg during his youth, claimed that Lippershey stole his ideas from Jansen. Scholars generally argue, however, that Boreel was only being overzealous in his support of Jansen and that there is no real evidence that Lippershey did not develop his work independently. What is clear is that around the early 17th century, both Zacharias Jansen and Hans Lippershey had been making optical instruments in the same Dutch city. Perhaps it is fair that Zacharias Jansen is more often credited with the invention of the microscope and Hans Lippershey with the invention of the telescope, since both appear to have made contributions to the development of both instruments.

Galileo's telescope

The original Dutch telescopes were composed of a convex and a concave lens, as this construction did not invert the image. Lippershey's original design had only a 3x magnification, which was improved by Galileo the following year. Galileo had heard of the "Dutch perspective glass" by means of which distant objects appeared nearer and larger and states that he solved the problem of the construction of a telescope in one night. A few days afterwards, having succeeded in making a better telescope than the first, he took it to Venice where he communicated the details of his invention to the public and presented the instrument itself to the Senate. Galileo may thus claim to have invented the telescope independently, although Galileo's immense improvement of the instrument overshadowed to a great degree the credit due to Lippershey as the original inventor.

Hans Lippershey invented the telescope