The invention of binoculars is reflective of the innate human desire to find out the unknown and to look at distant objects which we cannot access otherwise. Be it stargazing, watching birds, hunting or watching your favorite match up close, the modern binoculars have come a long way since their predecessor was first invented.
Let’s briefly look at the history of when were binoculars invented and how they have been modified over the years.
History of the binoculars
To understand the history of binoculars, we first need to look into the history of the lens, which is the primary component of the binocular.
According to historical evidence, the first glass was discovered in Egypt in 3500BC. Almost 5000 years after the discovery, the glass was shaped into a lens and led to the invention of the telescope.
The Galileo telescope
In 1609, Galileo introduced to astronomy the first telescope design. The first telescope was similar to opera glasses in design and had a limited magnification power (up to 30 times). So, it had limited functionality when it came to looking at the moon, as he could not view the entire moon’s face and had to reposition the telescope.
The curved mirror
Almost 100 years later, in 1704, Sir Isaac Newton introduced the curved mirror in the telescope design. The mirror was intended to gather light and reflect it to a focal point.
The Galilean binoculars
Around the time Galileo was working on the telescope, Lippershey invented binoculars which became the premise of the modern binoculars. His design incorporated a combination of the concave lens and convex lens to magnify objects.
Since Galileo was credited with the invention of the telescope, the early binoculars were named Galilean binoculars. The opera glasses we see today are inspired by the Galilean binoculars.
Johann Voigtlander fixed the narrow field of view problem in the Galilean binoculars, and they began providing a better image. It was J.P, Lemiere who developed the first proper binocular telescope in 1825.
The modern prism binocular
Later in 1854, Italian optician Ignazio Porro developed the Porro prism binoculars, which were wider and performed better than the Galilean binoculars. The modern binoculars we see today are a rendition of the Porro prism binoculars. For instance, in the 1980s, Carl Zeiss company came up with an enhanced version of the Porro prism binoculars.
The Roof prism binoculars
The modern binoculars of today’s era also draw inspiration from the Roof prism binoculars, which were designed in the 1880s in France by Achille Victor Daubresse.
So the numerous kinds of modern binoculars are Porro prism or Roof prism models. One example of an innovative design in modern binoculars is the night vision binoculars which are suited for low light conditions, viewing wildlife or hunting.