The history of telescopes and binoculars: An engineering perspective

John E. Greivenkamp, David L. Steed

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

5 Scopus citations


The design of the refracting telescope advanced rapidly following its invention in 1608, reaching its modern configuration in about a century. Even though the development of binoculars began almost simultaneously, nearly three hundred years elapsed before practical prismatic binoculars became available. The impediments to practical binoculars were not only in optical design, but in mechanical design, manufacturing, and materials. This paper will document the history of telescopes and binoculars from an engineering perspective looking at the evolution of basic optical system layout as well as some of the mechanical issues faced. This development will be illuminated using examples from the Museum of Optics at the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNovel Optical Systems Design and Optimization XIV
StatePublished - 2011
EventNovel Optical Systems Design and Optimization XIV - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 22 2011Aug 22 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


OtherNovel Optical Systems Design and Optimization XIV
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA


  • Antique Optics
  • Binoculars
  • History of Optics
  • Optical Design
  • Optical Instrumentation
  • Telescopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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