It is not
possible to be certain when the first telescope was built.
Nor can we be
certain who invented the microscope but it is certain that the microscope came
Glass lenses were
being used for spectacles during the 16th century
and much earlier
Roger Bacon (1210 - 1294) an Englishman, experimented with lenses &
Some drawings of
natural objects, which must have been drawn with the help of a magnifier,
were published in
Germany before 1600 and the Jesuit priest Kircher in the 17th century listed
6 different kinds
of microsope. Using the same logic it is now thought likely that Leonard Digges
and his son
Thomas (1545 -1595) used a telescope to produce a diagram of the planets.
defcription of the Caeleftiall Orbes,
according to the
most auncient doctrine of the Pythagoreans.
This was how
Thomas Digges introduced his 1576 diagram of the planatary orbits.
Now it can be
told: British scientists beat Galileo by 33 years
By Adrian Berry
Science Correspondent. The Daily Telegraph dated Thursday October 31 1991.
star-gazing telescope was invented by two British scientists during the reign
of Queen Elizabeth 1,
more than 30
years earlier than hitherto believed, a scientist historian said last night.
The discovery was
probably kept secret for military reasons – “ the 16th century equivalent to a
said Mr Colin
Ronan in his presidential address to the British Astronomical Association.
inventors, who dabbled in many branches of sciences, were Leonard Digges, who
died in 1571, and his son Thomas,
who died in 1595.
Leonard worked out the principles of the reflecting telescope
and Thomas later
used it to observe stars invisible to the naked eye.
The proof of
this, Mr Ronan said, was a diagram that Thomas Digges drew in 1576 showing
planetary orbits round the Sun
as described by
Copernicus 40 years before, surrounded by pictures of what he called
“this orbe of
stares fixed infinitely…..with perpetuall shininge glorious lightes
Mr Ronan said;
“This was what Galileo saw 33 years later (in 1610. Ed) when he first
looked at the stars
telescope made by the Dutch lens maker Hans Lipperhey.
It was always
believed until now that Lipperhey made the first practical telescope.”
is thought to have taken a Lipperhey telescope and improved it so the
magnification increased to 30x.(Ed)
He suggested that
the Diggeses’ invention was kept secret because it was a means of detecting
hostile Spanish ship.
“If the Spaniards
had known we possessed such instruments, they could have changed the shapes of
At the time
Thomas Digges first used his telescope, there was extreme nervousness in
England about a Spanish invasion,
and 12 years
later the Spanish Armada did attack.
Because of this
fear, Thomas’s book containing the illustration was never published.
Mr Ronan tracked
down part of the manuscript in the British Library.
telescope was also kept secret for a time by the Dutch military authorities,
who were also at war with Spain.
why the Diggeses’ achievment had been ignored by scholars, Mr Ronan said, was
the belief of Alexandra Koyre,
astronomical historian, that Thomas was talking about a “theological heaven”,
not an actual astronomical sky.
also said his telescope enabled him to see far-off objects,
“as plainly as if
you were corporally present, although it be distante from you as farre as eye
Mr Patrick Moore,
the astronomer, said yesterday that Mr Ronan has made an
discovery which deserves to be taken seriously”.
Last year, Mr
Ronan had a 15-mile wide asteroid named after him
by the International
Astronomical Union in honour of his scientific books.
refracting telescope had essentially the same design as many modern telescopes
that weigh hundreds of tons.
It was a
“Newtonian reflector”, the “first really successful instrument” that supposedly
was first used by Isaac Newton and his colleagues a century later.
In a reflector,
the eyepiece is at the side of the instrument, collecting light by means of a
“refractor”, the type invented by the Digges & Lipperhey and used by
contains no mirrors, and the observer looks through one end.
“Both the Digges
were highly practical mathematicians and navigators,” Mr Ronan said.
In Bloody Mary’s
reign, Leonard Digges was condemned to death for taking part in an uprising to
at the Queen’s
marriage to King Philip II of Spain. He was pardoned when Elizabeth came to the
Thomas Digges was
elected MP for Wallingford in 1572 and later MP for Southampton.
He was also made
overseer for the repair and refortification of Dover harbour.
He fought in the
Dutch wars against Spain with the rank of “muster-master-general of the English
According to the
Victorian scholar James Halliwell,
“Thomas Digges ranks among the first
mathematicians of the 16th century”.
A story published
by BBC NEWS on 14th Jan 2009
McGourty, Science correspondent.
maps" created by a little-known Englishman 400 years ago are to go on
to mark the
launch of the International Year of Astronomy.
Experts say they
prove their creator - Thomas Harriot - beat Galileo to become the first man
to view the Moon
through a telescope.
philosopher is credited with the feat in December 1609 but papers at the
Record Office show that Harriot drew images of the Moon several months earlier.
Dr Allan Chapman,
a science historian at Oxford University, said Harriot's composite drawing of
the Moon -
produced in 1612
or 1613 - marked "the birth of modern cartography".
Harriot was not only the first person ever to draw an astronomical body with a
telescope on 26th July 1609,
developed to become an absolutely superb lunar cartographer," he said.
weren't equivalent lunar drawings to be done for another 30 years.
no-one knew of it until relatively recent times, so Galileo gets all the
Harriot was a
weathly gentleman with no desire for fame and fortune, unlike Galileo, said Dr
comfortably off and had two friends in the Tower of London for political crimes
and had no wish to raise his profile.
Italy on the other hand was relatively hard-up, mid-40s and wanted fame and
Galileo goes for
publication. Harriot stays nice and quiet;
and it was not until modern times
that Harriot's achievements get noticed.
" The first
Moon map he drew - on 26th July 1609 - will be on display in Florence, Italy,
this summer as part of an exhibition on Galileo.
A selection of
other images will go on display at the Science Museum in London from 23rd July
at an exhibition,
Culture, to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.
Patrick Moore said: "I'm sorry Harriot isn't better known over here...
after all, we all know Galileo.
was first... and his map of the Moon is better than Galileo's."
Harriot's map, it really is a work of art. He saw the mountains, craters and
the so-called seas."
is a wonderful thing and it's British."
first, no question about it, and his map of the Moon was good. Galileo came
after, but went much further".
never took things as far as he might have done.
We've got to give Galileo pride
of place but don't forget Harriot."
public can see copies of the priceless originals - privately owned by Lord
at the West
Sussex Record Office in Chichester.
There will also
be a month-long exhibition at the Record Office, from 24th July,
Harriot's images of Jupiter's satellites, sunspots and Halley's comet.
interesting story / claim was made in an article from BBC NEWS dated 16th Sept
suggests the telescope may have been invented in Spain,
not the Netherlands or
Italy as has previously been assumed.
outlined in the magazine History Today,
suggest the telescope's creator could
have been a spectacle-maker based in Gerona, Spain.
refracting telescopes were thought to have appeared in the Netherlands in
1608.( According to this article. Ed)
But the first
examples may actually have been made for Spanish merchants.
according to historian Nick Pelling,
could have been a man called Juan Roget,
who died between 1617 and 1624.
subsequently travelled north to the Netherlands,
where, in 1608, three separate
individuals claimed the invention as their own.
But as Leonard
Digges and his son Thomas had to have used a telescope
to draw their
perfect description of the celestrial orbes in 1576,
I believe the
first refracting telescope was made in Britain.
It was in 1668
that Newton made his first (in fact, the first ever) reflecting telescope,
the attempt to improve refracting telescopes.
He constructed his
own tools to manufacture some of the parts.
telescope used parabolic mirrors rather than lenses
and thus avoided
the problem of colour dispersion (‘chromatic aberration’)
a phenomenon that
could prove very distracting to viewers of a magnified image.
This was a very
practical solution and it has been suggested that Newton’s interests
alchemy and magical experimentation provided the necessary mindset to solve the