Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 3-1 (November 2011)Marloes J. Rijkelijkhuizen: Bone telescopes from Amsterdam

2 The invention of the telescope

It was not until the beginning of the 17th century that the telescope, an instrument for seeing faraway things as though they were nearby, was invented. This invention is often attributed to one of two Dutchmen, Sacharias Janssen and Hans Lipperhey, both spectacle makers from Middelburg. The question of who the first inventor of the telescope was has occupied researchers for decades, even centuries without a positive result (Van Helden 1977; Ernst 1985; Degenaar 1988; Van Berkel 2002). The two Dutchmen from Middelburg and a Dutchman from Alkmaar, Jacob Metius saw the potential of such a magnifying instrument and they played a big role in the distribution and popularity of the telescope (Van Helden 1977: 24-25).

The first person to apply for a patent was Hans Lipperhey in 1608, followed by Jacob Metius. However, the son of Sacharias Janssen, Johannes Sachariassen, later said that his father was the first to make a telescope in The Netherlands after an Italian example. Neither Hans Lipperhey nor Jacob Metius received a patent because the manufacture of a telescope appeared to be a simple procedure and could be copied very quickly. It could not be kept a secret (Van Helden 1977: 20-21). Lipperhey’s demonstration of the telescope to Prince Maurice of Nassau and the States General in The Hague and his attempt to claim a patent received wide notice in newsletters and diplomatic correspondence, and the instrument itself reached the major European cities within a year (Van Helden 1977: 24-25). Soon they were made and sold all over Europe (Willach 2001: 381). Therefore 1608 is considered the year of the invention of the telescope.