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Zacharias Janssen, the Dutch Inventor of Telescope and Microscope

Zacharias Janssen was spectacle-maker in Middelburg, Dutch. He was associated with optical telescope and compound microscope. His invention was related to enhance optical capability in order to gain more traction to object.

Telescope and microscope were considered valuable object in his time. Even though, his name was still controversy regarding who invented first microscope, people still put his microscope as the best in his era. Compound microscope was capable to focus on small object.

Life and Works

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Zacharias Janssen was born in The Hague, but the year was not definitely. It might be in 1585, or earlier. His parents were Hans Martens and Maeyken Meertens, from Antwerp. He has a sister, Sara. Record stated that his first wife was Catharina de Haene in 1810.

He became spectacle maker who stated in record when he was guardian for children of Lowys Lowyseen. He did this job in 1915, but he had trouble due to counterfeiting activities in 1918. His family went to Arnemuiden then back again in 1921 in Middleburg.

After his first wife died, he married to Anna Couget. In November 1626, he was still spectacle maker and moved to Amsterdam. His business was bankrupt in 1928. In 1632, his sister and son stated that he had been died, though the official record released in 1938.


Working as spectacle maker was the reason to put him as candidate who invented microscope. During his work, he had neighbor who was also spectacle maker that claimed to be inventor of telescope. His attribution was debatable in this matter.

The claim started in 1655 from Willem Boreel, Dutch diplomat. He conducted investigation in order to find the first inventor of telescope. He visited son and relatives of Zacharias Janssen. They stated that invention was occurred in 1590.

Other records came from physicist and collector who stated they bought telescope from Janssen. German astronomer also stated he met unnamed Dutchmen who sell telescope.


Telescope patent was still in controversy due to claims from other spectacle makers, Jacob Metius and Lippershey. Metius stated that he had bought telescope from his father. After that, he copied the design and build better version. It happened between 1618 and 1920.

Invention of telescope and microscope sounded like fabricated information. Janssen’s son might gain the fame and financial support. Zacharias Janssen did not have record as spectacle maker before 1616.

Illegal Activity

Janssen had been in trouble with authorities several times because of counterfeiting coins. He tried to manufacturer money and avoids penalties with fled to Arnemuiden. His was sentenced to death for his crime.

However, he was pardoned. He fled again, and the case was no longer viable. In 1621, he returned to Middleburg. His life had many controversies, including his tenure as spectacle maker.

Historical Record

Document regarding his achievement was lost during World War II. Nazi attacked and bombed Netherlands, including Middleburg. Most of archives and documents were burnt in fire.

Until know, his name is still regarded as invention of telescope and microscope. His record is the only official one that’s available until today. That’s why Zacharias Janssen receives recognition as inventor in optical field.





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