The History of Binoculars

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Binoculars are two telescopes that are held together side by side. The images from the two prismatic telescopes are aligned to create binocular vision. In 1608, Hans Lippershey developed the telescope. When he tried to patent his instrument, it was not approved because other telescopes were previously known. The people that were in charge had never seen a telescope before, asked if he could make a binocular version of it, with quartz optics. He completed this in December of 1608. It was probably about three or four power and about an inch in aperture. He made two more within a few months. The original price was about 1000 florins, which he later lowered to 900 florins, which might be about 1000 dollars today. In his 18th century collection of Galileo letters, Giovanbattista De Nelli wrote that in 1618 Galileo constructed a helmet with a frame containing two small telescopes that were to be used on a ship. He called it celatone. Other writers described how a celatone in 1616 or 1617 and tested it on ships throughout 1617. In 1636, Galileo described how longitude could be ascertained by observing the positions of Jupiter’s moons. He described this by using the celatone. Daniele Chorez made optical instruments in Paris. He was thought to have made a telescope by 1625.

In about 1660, a Frenchman Francois Lassere, the Capuchin Pere Cherubin d’Orleans, developed the binocular telescope, separating the tubes with a metal frame and placing this in cardboard boxes that extended by sliding the smaller box from within the larger. He made about 30 of these in the 1660,s and 1670,s. In 1714, Peitro Patroni made a binocular telescope with silver ocular covers that swing open to reduce glare. The objectives have about 12mm of clear aperture with about 10 times magnification, and the three lens erecting system has no aperture stop. Since most of these binoculars were sold to noblemen for collectors items or conversation pieces, they were decorated with elaborated gilt tooled leather. In about 1750, Francois Baillou made binoculars with deep green lenses for solar observation. In 1790, Peter Dollond improved the binoculars by using a tube to move the objective and oculars lenses with a rack and pinion track. All of these early twin telescopes were refractors. In 1864 during the civil war, the U.S. Naval Observatory asked Alvin Clark to make binoculars that combined wide field with high magnification. This was completed in February of 1865. There have been many improvements since then. In later year’s reflector binoculars, digital, night vision is just some of the changes that have come about. Binoculars have many uses including astronomy, hunting, getting a close up view of the ball game and of course military.