Did the reflecting telescope have English origins?

Over the last few years studies have shown that maybe the reflecting telescope was the invention of an English surveyor and his son. The crude telescope would have enabled English commanders to sight Spanish galleons, and given Elizabethan astronomers unrivalled glimpses of the moon and stars. It was the subject of the BBC television programme, "The Sky at Night", broadcast on 16 August.

Colin Ronan is an historian of science and author of several works on astronomy. He was President of the British Astronomical Association in 1989-91. In his second presidential address lay years, he put forward the claim that the credit for the invention of the reflecting telescope should go to Leonard Digges, an English mathematician and surveyor, whose device predates rival Dutch claims of 1608 by over thirty years.

After giving a talk on the subject to the Optics Section of the Physics Department last May, Mr Ronan was invited by Professor Dainty to use the facilities of the section to construct a replica of Digges's telescope.

 


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