The Telescope: Who originally invented it? - History Key

The Telescope: Who originally invented it?

Many of us never heard about Hans Lippershey, but definitely heard about Galileo. We will discuss a bit about Hans Lippershey and the telescope invention, which was credited to Galileo, even if the truth is a bit different.

Portrait of Hans Lippershey
Portrait of Hans Lippershey © Image Source: Wikipedia

Lippershey was born in the western Germany in 1570, but re-settled in Middelburg, Netherlands in 1594 where he gained the Dutch citizenship in 1602. He was interested in optics and lens, being considered a lens maker, and the first person to create and spread the design a concept of the telescope. Initially, several individuals claimed the telescope invention: our protagonist Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Jansen and Jacob Metius. What is and sure is that the instrument was presented to public and came into attention in the Netherlands from around 1608.

Other attempts and tests were made much earlier, but Hans Lippershey was the first to apply a patent request, in order to register the design under his name. Even if Lippershey was not able to receive a patent as he wished, the Dutch government rewarded him. We must have in mind that the telescope presented by Lippershey, had a magnification of 3x.


There was a close connection between Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Jansen. They both lived in the Netherlands and were both interested in the study of optics and associated phenomena. If Lippershey is known for inventing the telescope, Jansen is remembered in history for inventing the microscope.

A whole situation has generated around Lippershey, Jansen, telescope and microscopes, as the Dutch diplomat William Boreel accused Lippershey of stealing the ideas from Jansen. There is no clear evidence about the situation, and there are also many doubts about it, considering that Boreel was a well-known Jansen supporter. What is sure, is that both Boreel and Lippershey, were working in the same time and in the same city, on optical instruments.

Astronomer observing the sky with a telescope
Astronomer observing the sky with a telescope © Image Source: Pinterest

Later on, another debate generated, this time related to Galileo’s involvement in the telescope invention. This is a common situation, considering that even today, many tend to attribute the telescope discovery to Galileo. In fact, the reality was slightly different. Originally a convex and a concave lens were forming the Dutch telescope, not allowing obtaining an inverted image. Galileo had heard about this invention, and took it in order to produce an improved version of it. This way, Galileo was able to increase the 3x magnification power from Lippershey’s telescope.

Galileo stated that he managed to build a telescope during one night. He presented the telescope in Venice, during a public presentation, and the invention was presented to the Senate, who praised Galileo for the genius invention. Galileo maybe claimed to have invented the telescope alone, independently from Lippershey or Jansen, but the truth in that he brought enormous improvements to it, but without inventing it. These improvements were so big and revolutionary, that had shaded Lippershey’s original invention, and his role as the first, original inventor of the telescope.
(Article written with references from: Wikipedia,

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