Jacob Metius's Patent Application for Telescope

The early years of the telescope history were home a controversy, a feud between three inventors who all tried to convince Dutch government that they were inventors of the first telescope. While Hans Lippershey and Johannes Zachariassen brought this fight into the eye of the public, the third contender Jacob Metius (born on 1571, died between 1624 and 1631) remained back, angry at its opponents and thus not allowing anyone to examine his design in closer way.

Not much is known about the life of Jacob Metius, except that he was a master spectacle and lens maker from Dutch city of Alkmaar, and a brother of the astronomer Adriaan Adriaanszoon who became famous for both his work and publishing of his father findings. All we know is that he was born around 1571, and became lens grinder that carefully protected his secrets (entire spectacle-maker industry was very protective during that time).

In 1608, he applied for the patent of telescope with design that was supposedly much more advanced than any one crated before, but was denied because Hans Lippershey approached Dutch government just 3 weeks earlier. Seeing that Dutch government was more interested in Lippershey’s design even though Metius tried to convince them that he can create much more powerful devices, he withdrawn his patent application and refused to showcase to anyone his designs. He eventually received small award, but that did not manage to change his mind.

His distrust and displeasure was so great that Jacob Metius took all of his secrets to his grave (exact date of his death is unknown, but it happened between 1624 and 1631), even ordering in his testament that all his designs and tools be destroyed so that no one could ever profit from them.

After his death, there was additional controversy. Son of Johannes Zachariassen, Zacharias Janssen, testified in court where he claimed that Jacob Metius purchased the old telescope design from him and his father in 1620. However, this testimony is viewed by everyone as false, because by that time Metius was out of spectacle and telescope-making business.