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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 22:13   #1
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Who invented Binoculars???

Who first put a pair of telescopes together and made the first bins, does anyone know the history of binoculars, I would be interested to know anything on the subject.

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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 22:29   #2
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Interesting question .... done a bit of a search on and came up with this ..
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 22:30   #3
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Originally Posted by Mickymouse
Who first put a pair of telescopes together and made the first bins, does anyone know the history of binoculars, I would be interested to know anything on the subject.

Hello Mick,

I think so most complete and true information can be found on

Hope it works to copy the text here:

The Early History of the Binocular

The invention of the telescope was a sequence of events that cannot be
assigned to an exact time or place. There are several written references to
telescopic instruments in the centuries before Galileo, but no solid evidence
as to their construction and use. However, it is known that the first patent
application for a telescope was in October of 1608. Jan Lippershey, an
eyeglass maker in what is now Holland, applied for a 30 year patent that
would grant him exclusive manufacturing rights. After testing, it was
requested that Lippershey produce an instrument that could be used by two
eyes. On December 9 of 1608, the inventor announced completion of a
binocular instrument. On Dec. 15, the binocular passed inspection and two
more, with optics of quartz crystal, were ordered. The patent was denied,
based on the argument that the instrument was already known to other
parties, but Lippershey was hired as telescope maker to the State of Zeeland.
Louis Bell speculates that Lippershey's instrument was likely 3 or 4 power,
with an objective of an inch and one half or less in diameter. Henry King,
whose History of the Telescope is more authoritative than Bell's work,
agrees that Hans Lippershey applied for the patent, and was requested to
produce a binocular telescope with optics of quartz, but is mute on whether
the instrument was successfully completed. Quartz was known to be more
difficult to work, and the request for crystal optics was dictated by the poor
quality of optical glass of the era. The early desire for binocular instruments
is not surprising to experienced observers of today who are familiar with
the problems that monocular instruments present to critical viewing.
Lippershey's customers were the very first telescope buyers, and had no
experience with viewing through an eyepiece to refer to. It is easy to
imagine them peering through a primitive Galilean type eyepiece of poor
quality glass, and being overwhelmed with eyestrain and exhausted with
fatigue from squinting. That they immediately desired a binocular
instrument (without having seen or used one,) is testimony to their
imagination and the primacy of binocular perception in human telescopists.

Recent Galieo studies disagree concerning his construction of a
binocular instrument. Giovanbattista de Nelli, in his 18th century
collections of Galileo letters and other works, wrote that in 1618 Galileo
constructed a helmet with a twin telescope attachment, to be used on board
a ship. There are many references to the helmet in Galileo's writings,
including construction, testing, presentation to sponsors and ambassadors,
and the development of a gimbaled observer's chair to counteract the
motion of the ship. Instrument historian Silvio Bedini summarizes the
known documentation and accepts the notion that the helmet was
binocular. However, telescope historian Albert van Helden notes an1881
Italian history of "Cannocchiali Binoculari", by Antonio Favoro, in which it
is claimed that the helmet had a single telescope. Van Helden believes that
Galileo did not use a binocular instrument, and the idea must be regarded as
speculative, pending further research.

There are many other references to very early binocular telescopes,
-1613, by Ottavio Pinani, noted by Favoro
-1645, Antonius de Rheita, first published claim of invention
-1671, Cherubin d'Orleans, La dioptrique oculaire, a landmark in
optical history, includes illustrations and details on binocular telescopes.
The Museum of Science in Firenze, Italy, exhibited in 1988 a four draw,
ornamented cardboard binocular attributed to d'Orleans.
-Pietro Patroni of Milan is mentioned by d'Orleans as another maker of
binocular telescopes, circa 1700. Patroni seems to have been a prolific
maker of telescopes and binoculars, since his instruments still appear at
-1702, Johann Zahn, Oculus artificialis, illustrated what seems to be a
hand-held binocular with a very flexible collimation linkage between tubes.
-Lorenzo Selva was part of a family of instrument makers in Venice
through the 1700s. In his Dialoghi Ottici Teorico-Pratici (1787), many
instruments are described and depicted, including telescopes and

The optical designs of most of these instruments are not recorded. Most
would have used Galilean optics, but some might have used a convex
eyepiece to allow higher powers. These Keplerian optics would have been
useful in an astronomical instrument, and their widespread use in
telescopes insures that at some point a binocular telescope was constructed
on that principle, despite the difficulties in collimation that result from
higher powers. By the nineteenth century, image erecting systems of two
spaced lenses were in wide use in terrestrial telescopes, and no doubt some
binoculars were made in that way as well. A twin Newtonian was proposed
by M. Vallack, and described by John Herschel in The Telescope, published
in 1861. Vallack wished to view by reflecting one light path over the open
end of the other tube. Herschel devotes 7 pages to the binocular telescope,
noting that it has been used for viewing the sun, moon, and planets;
"though without any very great practical advantage". Herschel also
presages the modern battery commanders stereoscopic rangefinder by
describing a stereo-telescope that had been built by A.S. Herschel in 1855,
and another described by M. Helmholz in 1859. These instruments are two
telescopes, with the objectives spaced prehaps 18" apart, each directed to an
eyepiece via mirrors or prisms. The widely spaced objectives give an greatly
enhanced sense of depth perception.

Many of the instruments described in an early history of the binocular
do not now exist, and some never existed. The Lost Binoculars Most Worthy
of Recovery would seem to be the Galileans made for the U.S. Naval
Observatory during the Civil War. Robert Tolles supplied a small quantity
of field glasses, and Henry Fitz and Alvan Clark produced one binocular
each. The Clark glass was tested in February of 1865, but the end of the
war soon after that indicates that only one instrument was completed.
None of these binoculars are currently known to exist. The Clarks made
several binocular telescopes in later years, and the revised edition of Artists
in Optics, due out in spring of 1996, will include the most up to date
information on them.

The modern prism binocular began with Ignatio Porro's 1854 Italian
patent for a prism erecting system. Throughout the 1860s, Porro worked
with Hofmann in Paris to produce monoculars using the same prism
configuration used in modern Porro prism binoculars. Other early makers
of Porro prism optics were Boulanger (1859,) Emil Busch (1865,) and
Nachet (1875). Some of these makers produced prism binoculars. A
combination of poor glass and unrefined optical design and production
techniques resulted in the failure of all these ventures. These monoculars
are all very scarce today, and it is unknown if any of the binoculars

The German optical designer Ernst Abbe displayed a prism telescope at
the 1873 Vienna Trade Fair. Designed according to Porro's principles, but
without knowledge of the earlier work, Abbe's new innovation was to
cement the prisms. He then set aside the idea and went on to develop the
theoretical basis of the modern microscope. His association with Otto
Schott, glassmaker, and Carl Zeiss, instrument maker, resulted in a
spectacular series of innovations by the German optical industry. The first
high quality modern binoculars were sold in 1894, a product of the optical
design of Ernst Abbe and the production techniques of Carl Zeiss. These
antiques give very sharp views and are still one of the most attractive
binoculars ever made. The documentation on the development of the
binocular after this point has survived in much greater quantity, and the
long story of the modern history of the binocular belongs in another
chapter. Any reference material on the subject is sought by the author, who welcomes correspondence.
Peter Abrahams

Sorry. Its the same as Carlos' reply.

Last edited by Wehr : Friday 9th July 2004 at 22:33.
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 22:53   #4
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Fascinating, nonetheless; thanks, Wehr.
... al with-oute, the mewe is peynted grene, In which were peynted alle thise false foules, As beth thise tidifs, tercelets, and oules,... and pyes....
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Old Friday 9th July 2004, 23:17   #5
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Thanks for that, it allways amazes me how long ago most of the theoretical work was done in most fields, it was interesting to see that porro comes from a chaps name, I thought it was a technical term that I didn't know.
I shall have a look at that site mentioned by Carlos, but that will have to be tomorrow, getting a bit tired now.
Thanks again.

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Old Saturday 10th July 2004, 07:39   #6
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Originally Posted by Mickymouse
Who first put a pair of telescopes together and made the first bins, does anyone know the history of binoculars, I would be interested to know anything on the subject.

Following on from the excellent answers already given, I believe that the first roof prism binocular was produced in the first decade of the twentieth century by Hensoldt, and used Abbe Koenig prisms (which were patented by Carl Zeiss). In the 30's anti-reflection coatings were invented by the Zeiss company, leading to improved transmisson and reduced ghosting. In the late 1980's phase coatings on roof prisms were invented (again by the Zeiss company). Phase, or P, coating gives improved resolution and contrast. The German optical industry seems to be very innovative. (I am sure that Leica have many firsts too.)

I read somewhere that the Japanese optical industry took off after the second world war, often copying German designs, as the patents had been nulled after the war. Even today the Japanese seem to produce first rate optical equipment but they do not seem to innovate as much as Europe and America. However I suspect that image stabilisation was a Japanese innovation. The first IS camera was produced by Nikon, it being a compact with non-interchangeable lens. The IS might have been licensed from someone else, Fuji perhaps. I think that Canon were first to use IS in a binocular.

Incidentally although Lippenshey applied for a patent on the telescope in the early 17th century, the patent was denied on the grounds that the telescope was already known. An Englishman is thought to have constructed a refracting telescope in the middle of the 16th, though there is no proof (it is referred to by his son in the 16th century). There are other equally valid claims in other countries and sadly details of all of these instruments are scarce.
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Old Saturday 10th July 2004, 08:59   #7
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It'll be the Chinese... isn't it always the Chinese?
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