The Newtonian telescope (Newton telescope) is a type of reflecting telescope invented by the British scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), using a concave primary mirror and a flat diagonal secondary mirror. Newton’s first reflecting telescope was completed in 1668 and is the earliest known functional reflecting telescope. The Newton telescope’s simple design makes them very popular with amateur telescope makers.
Newton’s idea for a reflecting telescope was not new. Galileo Galilei and Giovanni Francesco Sagredo had discussed using a mirror as the image forming objective soon after the invention of the refracting telescope, and others, such as Niccolò Zucchi, claimed to have experimented with the idea as far back as 1616. Newton may even have read James Gregory’s 1663 book Optica Promota which described reflecting telescope designs using parabolic mirrors.
Newton built his reflecting telescope because he suspected it could prove his theory that white light is composed of a spectrum of colours. Colour distortion was the primary fault of refracting telescopes of Newton’s day, and there were many theories as to what caused it. During the mid-1660s with his work on the theory of colour, Newton concluded this defect was caused by the lens of the refracting telescope behaving the same as prisms he was experimenting with, breaking white light into a rainbow of colours around bright astronomical objects. If this were true, then chromatic aberration could be eliminated by building a telescope which did not use a lens – a reflecting telescope. More details