The earliest working telescope design is attributed to Dutch eyeglass maker Hans Lippershey, who applied for a patent to his design in 1608. Two other Dutch eyeglass-making contemporaries of Lippershey, Zacharias Janssen and Jacob Metius, had developed similar telescope designs in the same year.
The Dutch government eventually turned down all patent applications for the telescope designs, arguing that the device was too easily reproduced to be considered patentable. Lippershey was paid a substantial fee by the government for the design, while Metius was give a small sum.
The use of lenses and the science of optics was known since the time of Ptolemy, circa 200 C.E. Robert Grosseteste wrote the treatise "Concerning the Rainbow" in the mid-13th century, describing the practice of using lenses to make far objects appear larger.