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The origins of the telescope have been debated since the instrument's appearance in The Hague in 1608. Civic and national pride led local dignitaries, popular writers and scholars to search the archives and to put forward sharply divergent histories. Did the honour of the invention of the telescope belong to the Dutch, the Italians, the English or the Spanish. And if the city of Middelburg in the Netherlands was indeed the cradle of the instrument, was the "true inventor" Hans Lipperhey or his rival Zacharias Jansen? Over the past few decades, a group of historians and scientists have discovered new documents, re-examined familiar ones, and tested early lenses and telescopes. This fascinating collection examines the evidence available and proposes a new and convincing account of the origins of the instrument that changed mankind's vision of the universe.
Albert van Helden is professor emeritus of history at Rice University and the University of Utrecht.