We all love binoculars. If you are an outdoor enthusiast like me, I am pretty much sure you own or have used a pair of binoculars before. Whether it is going for hunting, bird watching or simply watching your favorite sports events, You would agree with me that binoculars can make a lot of difference in your experience.
But have you ever wondered how these devices came about?. Today we will look into the history of binoculars. When they were first made and over the years, how they have been modified to work better than the former.
Just a quick definition of binoculars. Binoculars are two pairs of telescopes mounted side by side and aligned to point in the same direction. This allows the viewer to be able to see distant objects which appear relatively nearer than they would otherwise appear to the naked eyes.
Some of the common uses of binoculars are; hunting, bird watching, astronomy, hiking, beach viewing, travel, sports events and concerts and among others. They are mostly loved by the outdoor adventurers who love to explore, see wildlife and general nature viewing.
Who invented the first binoculars?
History has it that the first discovery of glass was around 3500 BCE in Egypt, it took another 5,000 years for it to be shaped into a lens at which the first telescope was invented.
Galileo Telescope Invented
since the discovery of glass, around 3500 BCE, it took about another 5,000 years for it to be shaped into a lens, which was then used for the first telescope.
The telescope was introduced to astronomy in 1609 by the great Italian scientist Galileo Galilei. He was the first man to see the moon and also discover the Jupiter and Saturn.
These telescopes looked similar to a pair of opera glasses and the arrangement used in making them made these scopes has a limited magnification power of up to only 30 times. Which made Galileo to not see more than a quarter of the moon’s face without repositioning his scope.
Sir Isaac Newtown Curved Mirror Concept
In 1704, one of the greatest scientist that also lived before us called Sir Isaac Newtown, introduced a new concept in the design of telescopes. He used a curved mirror to gather in light and reflect it back to a point of focus. This curved mirror acted as a light gathering bucket. The bigger this bucket (curved mirror) was the more light it was able to gather or collect.
This concept could magnify objects millions of times far more than a lens could magnify. However, Newton’s concept of using a single curved mirror remained the same.
The major change that took place was the growth in the size of the reflecting mirror, from the 6-inch mirror used by Newton to the 6-meter (236 inches in diameter) mirror of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Russia, which opened in 1974.
The Early History of Binoculars
History has it that the invention of the first pair of modern binoculars was by a man named Hans Lippershey. In winter 1608, he discovered that a convex lens and a concave lens can be combined to produce a magnified image of a distant object.
It is believed that this guy Lippershey offered his telescope to the Netherland’s States General on October 2nd, 1608, shortly after which he was requested to build a version which could be used by both eyes, for military purposes.
Lippershey complied with the demand and created three sets of “two eyes”, which weren’t very praised due to their lack of efficacy. It was stated, back at that time, that they had low magnification and very poor image quality. Lippershey requested a patent on his invention but it was refused to him.
Around the same time was when Galileo was also developing his telescope through research. So the first early telescopes recognized were those of Galileo the scientist. That is why the first binoculars where called Galileo telescopes or binoculars.
These telescopes had a drawback due to a design flaw which made them have an extremely narrow field of view making it difficult to see distance object details. This flaw was corrected by Johann Voigtlander thus, he became the creator of the first proper pair of Galilean binoculars. These Galilean binoculars were now producing better images.
This made the Galilean binoculars popular before the 1850s. They were been used in social events and theatre rooms and often accessorized with silver, gold and even pearls. The basic concept used in those binoculars at the time is what we now see been used in opera glasses.
In 1825, the first real pair of the binocular telescope was invented by J.P, Lemiere.
In 1854, a new and innovative type of binoculars was released on the market by the Italian optician Ignazio Porro. The model was named the Porro Prism Binoculars. These binoculars were enhanced in the 1980s by specialized manufacturers, such as the German Carl Zeiss.
The Porro Prism binoculars were wider and better performing than the Galilean ones, which made the latter become less and less popular. In present-day binoculars, you will often recognize Porro prism type by their look. They have a dogleg shape look.
Now after all these discoveries and inventions, new generations of binoculars were beginning to emerge and in the 1880s one outstanding design by a French manufacturer called Achille Victor Emile Daubresse became popular and it was called roof prism binoculars. This is because he used Abbe-Koenig prism or the Schmidt-Pechan Prism in his design.
So, in this modern age, the popular types of binoculars we have in the market is the Roof prism binoculars and Porro prism binocular which have undergone a series of modifications to get perfect images these days. I hope this binoculars history has given you an idea of how these devices have evolved with time to this present day.
Josephine is Content Manager @ Binocularsinght.com, an Electrical Engineering Grad who loves optics. She is an Outdoor Enthusiast and a Writer who likes escaping into the mountains for hiking adventures and enjoys other outdoor activities as well.