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Inicio > Historias > ¿Quién inventó el telescopio?

> ¿Quién inventó el telescopio? <

- Aunque apareció en Holanda en 1608, pudo haberse inventado antes de esa fecha en Italia o, quizá, en España

- Algunos historiadores apuntan a un tal Joan Roget, artesano gerundense

Artículo aparecido en Crónicas de AstroManía en el diario digital El País, el 13 de octubre de 2015

El 25 de septiembre de 1608, un humilde artesano de Middleburg se atrevió a molestar al príncipe holandés Mauricio de Nassau con un tubo de latón en apariencia inofensivo. Era Hans Lipperhey. Por aquel entonces el territorio holandés estaba sumido en una cruenta guerra civil. Los bandos enfrentados eran, por una parte, las fuerzas españolas ocupantes –católicas–, y por otra las provincias rebeldes del Norte –protestantes–. En una de las débiles treguas el príncipe mostró el ingenio a los dirigentes de las otras provincias, así como al propio comandante en jefe de las tropas españolas, el muy sorprendido marqués Ambrosio Spínola, que afirman exclamó: «A partir de ahora no podré estar más tiempo seguro, ya que me verás llegar a lo lejos».

No habría de pasar ni un año para que los entonces denominados como “vidrios para espiar” se extendieran como la pólvora por toda Europa. En julio será otro hábil artesano, el italiano Galileo Galilei, el que tenga preparado su propio telescopio para impresionar con él al Senado veneciano oteando el horizonte desde el campanario de la catedral de san Marcos. Aunque sólo magnificara tres veces, será más que suficiente como para que Galileo sea contratado de por vida. Lo que ocurrió después es de sobra conocido: A Galileo le tiró más la ciencia que la milicia y, con instrumentos de hasta treinta aumentos, reveló secretos del Cielo tales como las fases de Venus, las altas montañas lunares o los cuatro satélites principales de Júpiter, así como la extraña forma de Saturno o las enigmáticas manchas solares.


Pintura del siglo XIX que representa a Galileo haciendo una demostración de su telescopio en 1609


Pero volvamos a Hans Lipperhey. Pocos días después de su entrevista con el príncipe Mauricio patenta –o, al menos, lo intenta– su invento y se le adjudica un jugoso contrato. Aunque poco dura la alegría en casa del pobre porque al telescopio le salen padres por toda Holanda: Jacob Metius, Zacharias Janssen y hasta un tercer artesano de apellido desconocido muestran cosas parecidas o idénticas. A falta de pruebas de ADN, las autoridades holandesas declinan conceder la patente. Y es que casi cualquiera podía construir un catalejo si tenía las lentes apropiadas: una cóncava –el ocular– y una convexa –el objetivo–. El uso de lentes cóncavas y convexas como anteojos se remonta a mucho tiempo atrás. Alrededor de 1286 ya aparecen en Italia, y las primeras eran recomendadas “para jóvenes”, pues corregían la miopía, y las segundas “para distintas edades adultas”, pues corregían la presbicia. La cuestión estribaba, entonces, en saber a quién se le había ocurrido primero la feliz idea de poner una delante de la otra. Dicen que dijo Lipperhey que fueron sus hijos quienes, jugando traviesamente con algunas de sus lentes, habrían descubierto su poder magnificador de forma accidental mirando la veleta de una torre. Pero mucho más sugerente y misteriosa es la afirmación del milanés Girolamo Sirtori, que habría escrito que un desconocido comprador de lentes las habría colocado juntas en el taller delante de Lipperhey para comprobar su calidad. Lipperhey, intrigado, habría hecho lo mismo una vez cerrada la venta, encontrándose con la inesperada sorpresa.

Sirtori no era el único italiano interesado en el próspero negocio de los vidrios para espiar. Primero su compatriota Giovanni Battista Della Porta –un prestigioso inventor napolitano–, y posteriormente el florentino Rafael Gualterotti reclamarán su paternidad. También lo hará el mismo Galileo –tan genial como soberbio–, en discusión epistolar con los anteriores. Pero es Sirtori el que en 1612, en uno de sus libros acerca de la invención del telescopio, aporta una pista tan sugerente como enigmática. Allí nos transporta a 1609, año en el que conoce en Gerona a un “viejo artesano débil y cansado” al que denomina Roget, fabricante de anteojos, afirmando que éste le mostró, además de la armadura de su telescopio –muy enmohecido por el paso del tiempo–, las fórmulas para su construcción así como “la anotación de las proporciones con tres puntos.” Gracias a ello Sirtori afirmará haber perfeccionado sus experimentos y redactado las tablas reproducidas en su libro para fabricarlos.

¿Qué hay de cierto y qué hay de falso en este antiguo texto? ¿Existió Roget? Sorprendido con la lectura del libro de Sirtori, un médico oftalmólogo barcelonés –además de coleccionista de instrumentos ópticos e historiador, Josep María Simón de Guilleuma– se sumergió literalmente a mediados del siglo xx en los archivos catalanes de parroquias y ayuntamientos en busca de información para identificar a los personajes citados por el antiguo viajero italiano. Y el éxito le acompaña en sus indagaciones, publicando sus hallazgos en el IX Congreso de Historia de la Ciencia celebrado en 1959 en Barcelona. Según Simón de Guilleuma, un tal Joan Roget sería el auténtico inventor del telescopio.

Sobre cómo habría llegado la idea de Roget desde Gerona primero hasta Italia y posteriormente hasta Holanda, hay multitud de hipótesis a cuál más inverosímil, pero que fueron entrelazadas con cierto criterio por el británico Nick Pelling en el año 2008, y publicadas por la revista History Today. Aunque la mayoría de libros de texto y divulgación que podemos consultar hoy en día siguen otorgando la paternidad del telescopio a Hans Lipperhey, no sabemos a ciencia cierta si el telescopio comenzó como un juego de niños enredando con lentes por un tubo, o bien fue fruto del inmarcesible ingenio español que culminaría poniendo otro tubo en el extremo de un mocho y llamándolo fregona. Pero quién sabe si, durante los últimos cuatrocientos años, los astrónomos de todo el mundo han estado mirando los cielos a través de ojos españoles. Es emocionante pensarlo así.

2015-10-15 21:00 | joven | 52 Comentarios | #

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