The telescope

Joseph Glanvill
- 1668 -

The telescope is the most excellent invention of every time to assist the eye in the discovery of remote objects. The distance of the skies is so great, that our not helped senses cannot give us but extremely defective information of that superior world; and the Antiquity's speculations were very modest and entirely false. But these excellent glasses bring the stars nearer us and they let us know those immense worlds of light. They offer us more phenomena and more true data; they disperse the shades and the vain images of the bare senses, and they allow us a clearer and vaster vision. Through these advantages they wide our thought, and they show us a more wonderful representation of the universe: so, the Skies are more suitable for declaring glory of God, and we are helped to formulate more noble theories. I have mentioned some of the most notable discoveries realized with these pipes, which broadly transcend all the past imaginations.

Through their ulterior improvement, other things can be disclosed, beyond what we know today. The contemporary philosophers are so little interested that the posterity is satisfied with their discoveries and hypothesis, that they continuously solicit new helps for themselves and for their successors, in order to achieve an ulterior progress in the knowledge of the phenomena. These glasses have been continuously improved, since Metius invented them and Galileo Galilei applied them to the skies; and now many clever members of the Royal Society are attending to raise their quality. What successes and informations can come from the progress of these tools, it is something that could appear ridiculous and romantic to suggest. In fact, without doubt, speaking of sunspots, of scabrousness of the lunar surface, or of other telescopic certainties, before the invention of these glasses, it would have appeared unbelievable and absurd.

I don't dare to mention, therefore, our biggest hopes. But at least I can affirm this: through these pipes the Posterity will be able to find a sure way to determine immense matters, such as if the Earth moves or if the planets are inhabited. And who can say the answer. And it is probable that at least another thing, to which our inferior world is more directly interested, will be finally discovered: the so-much-desired longitude. And hence there will be bigger progress of the navigation, and perhaps the discovery of the northwest passage, and the still ignored south passage. Whatever can think of these expectations the vulgar minds, whose theories and hopes are confined in their senses, it will be enough considering that an experiment let us know vast America.

from Plus Ultra, 1668

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