On October 2, 1608, 400 years ago today, Hans Lipperhey applied for a patent for a “certain instrument to see far”–in other words, a telescope.  Hans was a German lens maker, living in the Netherlands.  Legend says that 2 children entered his workshop and played with a couple of lenses.  They held them apart and looked at a weathervane through them.  It appeared closer.  Lipperhey noticed, enclosed the lenses in a lead tube, and the telescope was born.

Lipperhey never received the patent, but he did make several telescopes for the government.  A year later, Galileo Galilei heard of the invention, made a telescope of his own, and saw craters on the moon, the moons of Jupiter, and the stars of the Milky Way.

Because of the playfulness and the wonder of two children, our understanding of the universe has never been the same.


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