Inventions of the Renaissance

Telescope, microscope, eyeglasses, and the printing press

Come experience the inventions of the Renaissance at the St. Peter Museum of Science

There are many important inventions from the Renaissance, and some of the most important inventions include telescopes, microscopes, eye glasses, and the printing press. These are some of the inventions that will be on display at the St. Peter Museum of Science from November 15 - December 4. Come enjoy the displays and refreshments!


The first telescope was invented in the Renaissance era. There were many different variations of the first telescope that appeared but the first was in the Netherlands in the 17th century. It was made from convex and concave lenses that were put in a tube. The inventor, Jacob Metius, asked the government for a patent but it was not awarded because the government thought that it was too easy to copy. Metius got a small award instead.

A famous Italian professor, Galileo Galilei, made many advances on the telescope including making telescopes that had much higher magnifications than the first telescope. His first attempt was a tube with two lenses in it but they became more complex as he experimented. He made a refracting telescope that bent, or refracted light. This telescope used a convex and a concave lens. He has many issues with this telescope including not finding a clear glass for his lenses. The images of star would be blurry and have strange colors around them because of the lenses.

Johannes Kepler, a German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer, proposed a new design for the telescope using two convex lenses. This design had a much larger magnification and field of view but the disadvantage was that the image would be upside down. This idea was not taken up immediately, it was many years before Kepler's ideas were accepted.


The first microscope was created by a Dutch father and son, Zacharias and Hans Janssen. By combining lenses and a tube they found that things could be enlarged quite easily.

They call Anton van Leeuwehoek(1632-1723), of Holland, the father of microscopy because he was the first person to see many things in a microscope including bacteria, yeast plants, and the circulation of blood. He also pioneered the study of various subjects on living and nonliving things. He created lenses with the highest magnification of the time, up to 270 diameters. His microscope was a small, simple design where you could adjust where the specimen is and how far away it is from the lens.

Robert Hooke was an English scientist who confirmed Leeuwenhoek's ideas about the life in a drop of water and refined Leeuwenhoek's design of his light microscope.


The first eyeglasses are believed to have been invented in Italy around 1285 by Salvino D'Armate. It is possible that they were invented earlier but this is the first known occurrence. The first glasses consisted of small magnifying glasses set into bone, metal, or leather. The first lenses were made of quartz because they could not produce good enough lenses in glass.

After the first invention many changes occurred to the glasses. At first the glasses only corrected farsightedness but in the 1400's a German inventor discovered a way to correct nearsightedness by using concave lenses instead of convex. Lighter frames of steel for the glasses were invented in the early 17th century while the modern style of glasses was invented in 1727.

The printing press

The first printing press was invented by Pi Sheng, a Chinese inventor, around 1040 but Europe did not experience the printing press until Johannes Gutenburg invented it in Europe in the mid 15th century. Gutenburg's press was used until the 20th century. His press was made of wood unlike those of the Chinese that were made of clay.

Gutenburg's press was very influential in Europe during the Renaissance era. They could now produce book much faster which caused the literacy rate to increase because books were more available. The bible was the first book to be printed on the printing press and it soon became available in many more languages than it had been. This caused many Christians to become more knowledgeable and to come to their own conclusions about what the bible is saying. The printing press also allowed ideas to spread much faster than they had been able to. This spread of ideas caused many rapid developments in science, art and religion.