Refractor Telescopes *

Refracting, or refractor, telescopes use lenses to bring light to a focus, as opposed to reflecting telescopes which focus light using a mirror.

The invention of the refractor telescope predates Sir Isaac Newton’s construction of the first successful reflector telescope by about 60 years. Although it is not known for sure who constructed the first reflector telescope, Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Janssen and Jacob Metius are generally credited with developing the first refracting telescopes in Holland in around 1608. It is not known whether they each came up with the idea independently, however Lippershey, an eyeglass manufacturer, was the first to apply for a patent for his ‘spyglass’ or ‘perspective glass’, as the invention was originally known. Although it was alleged at the time that he stole the idea from Janssen – the acknowledged inventor of the compound microscope, also an eyeglasses maker working in the same town of Middelburg – Lippershey claimed that he developed the idea after watching children in his shop use two lenses to magnify a distant weather vane. Complicating the matter further, Jacob Metius, also from Holland, applied for a patent for a similar device just weeks after Lippershey.

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Astronomy, Cosmology, Astrophysics and Space Exploration

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