Johanne (Hans) Lippershey

Born: 1570 – Died: 1619

Nationality: German, Dutch

Hans Lipperhey is known for the earliest written record of a refracting telescope, a patent he filed in 1608. His work with optical devices grew out of his work as a spectacle maker, an industry that had started in Venice and Florence in the thirteenth century, and later expanded to the Netherlands and Germany.

Lipperhey applied to the States-General of the Netherlands on 2 October 1608 for a patent for his instrument “for seeing things far away as if they were nearby”, a few weeks before another Dutch instrument-maker’s patent, that of Jacob Metius. Lipperhey failed to receive a patent since the same claim for invention had also been made by other spectacle-makers but he was handsomely rewarded by the Dutch government for copies of his design.

Lipperhey’s application for a patent was mentioned at the end of a diplomatic report on an embassy to Holland from the Kingdom of Siam sent by the Siamese king Ekathotsarot. This report was issued in October 1608 and distributed across Europe, leading to experiments by other scientists, such as Galileo Galilei, who improved the device.

Lipperhey’s original instrument consisted of either two convex lenses with an inverted image or a convex objective and a concave eyepiece lens so it would have an upright image. This “Dutch perspective glass” (the name “telescope” would not be coined until three years later by Giovanni Demisiani) had a three-times (or 3X) magnification.

The lunar crater Lippershey, the minor planet 31338 Lipperhey, and the exoplanet Lipperhey (55 Cancri d) are named after him.