Did Galileo invent the telescope?

Did this pioneering astronomer invent and use a telescope for the first time?


Asked by Tim Whitfield

It is quite a common belief that Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei invented the telescope but this is not strictly true. The earliest workings towards the design of the refracting telescope were made by German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey (above) in 1608. During Lippershey’s time, the name ‘telescope’ was not used until three years later and he referred to his design as a ‘Dutch perspective glass’, which he used for ‘seeing things far away as if they were nearby.’

Galileo, though, was the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes after hearing about Lippershey’s work in 1609. He improved on Lippershey’s design and using his new telescope in 1610, he discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter (Io, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa) and physical features on the Moon.

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