Telescope Timeline - Significant Events in Telescope History

  • 470-390 BC – Chinese philosopher Mozi recorded the observations that concave mirrors can focus the rays from the sun.
  • 424 BC – Greek Playwright and theater director Aristophanes recorded that glasses of many shapes that are filled with water can bend rays of the sun.
  • 3rd century BC – Greek mathematician Euclid first wrote scientific overview of sun rays, reflection and refraction. His work was expanded 5 centuries later by Ptolemy.
Picture Of The Great Comet Of 1577
  • 10-12th century – several Arab scientists started examining the properties of light, mirrors, lenses and more. Ibn al-Haytham's “Book of Optics” arrives in Europe, and after translation to Latin, it becames the foundation of modern European exploration of lenses.
  • Late 13th century – First spectacles are invented.
  • 1570s – Several reports are made of the abilities of lenses to make “distant things look as they are near”.
  • 1608 – German-Dutch spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey applies his patent on what is today known as telescope. He managed to beat two other Dutch scientists (Jacob Metius and Zacharias Janssen) who also tried to register their own inventions.
  • 1609 – Famous astronomer, physicist, engineer and mathematician Galileo Galilei managed to improve the basic telescope design of Hans Lippershey, calling it “perspicillum”. He used his telescope to make many significant astronomical discoveries.
  • 1611 – The name “telescope” is created by Greek mathematician Giovanni Demisiani, during his visit at Italian science academy “Accademia dei Lincei” that hosted one of the Galileo Galilei’s telescopes. This word was coined from the words “tele” (far) and “skopein” (to look, or to see).
  • 1611 – Johannes Kepler provided detailed scientific explanation about the inner workings of telescopes, optics and light rays. He created first telescope that was focused only on astronomy (it had two convex lenses).
  • 1616 – 1684 – Large amount of scientific effort is focused on further development of telescopes, including the inventions that were provided by Christian Huygens, James Gregory, Isaac Newton, Laurent Cassegrain and Robert Hooke.
  • 1720-1721 – English mathematician John Hadley managed to significantly improve telescopes by working on parabolic mirrors.
  • 1730-1783 – Telescopes are further more improved with the efforts of James Short, Chester Moore Hall, John Dollond and Jesse Ramsden.
  • 1897 – Yerkes Observatory builds largest telescope of its time – 101.6cm refractor telescope.
  • 1910 – One of the most famous telescope designs is created - Ritchey-Chrétien telescope.
  • 1970 – First telescope launched into space onboard probe Uhuru. This was also first gamma-ray telescope ever to be used.
  • 1990 – Hubble telescope launched into Earth’s orbit. It quickly became one of the most famous and most important telescopes ever to be built.
  • 2009 – Kepler telescope launched in space, with goal of locating planets that are orbiting our neighboring stars. It has 2.4m diameter mirror.
  • 2011 – NASA announces plans to launch in 2018 the most ambitious space telescope of all time. James Webb Space Telescope will operate in deep space and have staggering 6.5m diameter mirror.