Here's Why People Think Galileo Galilei Invented The Telescope

Galileo Galilei is one of the most remarkable scientific minds the world has ever seen. As History reports, his pioneering work in the fields of physics and astronomy put him in grave peril — as well as in prison — because the Catholic Church sought to oppose his suggestion that the Earth is not the center of the universe. His advancement of the concept of heliocentrism (which suggested that the sun, in fact, was the center around which planets orbit) paved the way for the many brilliant scientists who followed him.

Science as we know it today would probably look very different without Galileo's innovative work. For many, though, he is as well known as an eccentric inventor as he was a brilliant scientist. As Science Struck reports, he created an incredible array of devices, including the thermoscope — an early take on the thermometer. This rudimentary device used an ethanol solution and a series of balls to determine temperature changes (a huge problem in his time). The telescope is also often attributed to Galileo, but he was actually beaten to the punch. Here's why it's sometimes erroneously believed that the famous astronomer invented the telescope himself.

One of science's brightest stars

According to Space, Hans Lippershey was the inventor of the telescope. The Dutch Lippershey was a maker of lenses and eyeglasses. One day, he apparently saw children playing by holding two lenses in such a way that a weather vane in the distance appeared much closer. Inspired, he set about creating what would become the telescope, and his patent application became official in 1608. Elsewhere, a model that predates Lippershey's has been credited to an Elizabethan named Leonard Digges, per Science Focus. However, the lower quality of the lenses and the model's unwieldy nature leaves Lippershey's iteration to be considered the first true telescope.

Where does Galileo come in? Unsurprisingly, the iconic scientist wasted no time in utilizing such a device. According to NASA, he was the first person to raise a telescope to the skies, observing the bumpy terrain of the moon and even the Milky Way itself. The astronomer did this one year after Lippershey took out the patent and used a device of his own improved design. By 1610, Galileo had made incredible discoveries with his telescope, including four of Jupiter's moons, per History. His first writings on these discoveries caught the eye of the Medicis, and Cosimo II afforded him great power and influence.

As Galileo was the first to make such significant use of the telescope, and his own design was seemingly more advanced, it's perhaps inevitable that Lippershey's creation would be somewhat overshadowed. Nevertheless, Lippershey is the telescope's true inventor.