John Dee and the Telescope

One of my favourite Elizabethan characters is John Dee, the famous scholar, astrologer, astronomer, mathematician and scientist, a man who I think of as a combination of Derren Brown, Patrick Jane (The Mentalist), Paul McKenna, Einstein, Galileo and James Bond. A fascinating man!

Those of you who are interested in John Dee will be interested in reading Robert Parry’s article “John Dee and the Invention of the Telescope” in which Robert examines whether John Dee actually had a part in the invention of the telescope and whether he should be given some of the credit. After presenting compelling evidence, Robert concludes:-

“In conclusion, and keeping in mind John Dee’s life-long interest in the stars, it is inconceivable in my view, that he would not have used his understanding of optics and perspective glasses to turn a rudimentary telescope to the heavens at some time during his long career as a scientist in Elizabethan England. The assertion in many of our history books that in 1609, the Italian astronomer Galileo was the first person to turn a telescope to the heavens to observe the moon, stars and planets is possibly more than a little inaccurate. The year 1609, coincidentally, was the year in which John Dee died.”

What a shame that the general public have never heard of this influential scholar, a man who was a trusted adviser to one of the greatest monarchs England has ever known, Elizabeth I.

Robert Parry is author of “Virgin and the Crab”, one of my favourite historical novels.