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In war, seeing is everything, and for more than 400 years militaries the world over have sought out new ways to scope out their enemies. Hans Lippershey, a Dutch spectacle maker, is credited with inventing the telescope (in 1608), but a prominent British science historian presented evidence in 1991 that Leonard Digges, an English mathematician and surveyor, had come up with a reflecting telescope sometime between 1540 and his death in 1559. As England lived in abject fear of a Spanish invasion, Digges’s invention may have been kept under wraps as a military secret, and England crushed Spain’s “Invincible Armada” when it finally arrived in 1588. As for Lippershey’s telescope, the Dutch tried to keep it a secret too, according to the late Archibald Roy, an astronomer at Glasgow University,  correctly envisioning that “a general could overlook the whole field of battle with it.”



This article appears in the Autumn 2020 issue (Vol. 33, No. 1) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Now See Here

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