Hey, Camp Fans!
Ever wonder about the history of your camping gear, when it was invented, and why? We do here at Everything Summer Camp. That’s why this Blog takes a day here and there to investigate the origins of specific gear and other camp supplies. Today: binoculars.
In order to discuss the history of binoculars, however, we first need to take a good look at telescopes. Binoculars, after all, are only mini-telescopes that have been aligned and mounted together. Using lenses that people grind in particular ways, telescopes allow you to magnify your vision of faraway objects to make them appear close-up.
Glass-making and lens-grinding was already a booming industry by the late 1500s. Interestingly, the first guy to discover what two lenses can do when pointed at each other was likely just some eye-glass maker, Joe Schmoe who just happened to be fiddling around at work one day.
It was another eye-glass maker, a man named Hans Lippershey, who actually took this intriguing discovery and used it to invent the telescope. And, while Hans’ telescope was immediately praised by the masses, within a few years, people wanted something you could use with both eyes. It wasn’t long before Hans went to work tweaking the telescope, shrinking it, and mounting a pair of them together.
The binoculars were born (as well as its precursor, the telescope) all within a few years of the year 1610. ‘Spyglasses,’ as they came to be called, were a huge hit that often found themselves in high demand but low on supply because of how much more intricate the work was to build a pair of them as opposed to the involvement of building a single telescope.
Despite the intensive labor involved, binoculars did not deliver a crystal clear image. Because of their small scale, it was difficult for manufacturers to grind the lenses with accurate precision. Even so, people loved using them for birdwatching, going to the opera, and simple enjoyment. Everyone thought they were good enough back then.
Named after the great astronomer, these binoculars are called Galilean Binoculars. We’ve been improving on binocular construction since the 1800’s creating the Prism, Porro Prism, and—the latest—Prismatic Binoculars. Binoculars are still frequently used today for stargazing, police work, and even advanced military missions.
Get your own pair of binoculars today, and thanks for reading.