Leonard Digges, Esq, of Woolton Court

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Leonard Digges, Esq

Also Known As: "Leonard /Digges/"
Birthdate: (38)
Birthplace: Digges Court, Wotton (near Canterbury), Kent, England
Death: between January 11, 1558 and January 10, 1559 (37-38)
St. James Garlickhithe, London, England
Immediate Family:

Son of James Digges, Esq., Sheriff of Kent and Phillipa Digges
Husband of Bridget Sarah Wilsford
Father of Sir Thomas Digges; Anne Digges; Maria Digges and Sarah Digges
Half brother of John Digges, Esq., of Berham

Occupation: Mathematician, astronomer, architect
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Leonard Digges, Esq, of Woolton Court

Leonard Digges (c.1515–c.1559) was a well-known English mathematician and surveyor, credited with the invention of the theodolite, and a great popularizer of science through his writings in English on surveying, cartography, and military engineering. His birth date is variously suggested as c.1515[1] or c.1520 (but certainly by 1530)[2] Much of his work was expanded on, annotated, and published by his son, Thomas Digges.[2] His son followed in his footsteps and was a pivotal player in the popularization of Copernicus's book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Notes written by Thomas Digges in the publication of the book Pantometria in 1570 contain descriptions of how Leonard Digges made use of a "proportional Glass" to view distant objects and people. Some, such as astronomer and historian Colin Ronan, claim this describes a reflecting or refracting telescope built between 1540 and 1559, but its vague description and claimed performance makes it dubious.[3][4][5]

1 Johnston, Stephen (2004). "Digges, Leonard (c.1515–c.1559)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/7637. Retrieved 2012-01-25. (subscription or UK public library membership required)

2 Van Helden, Al (1995). "Digges, Leonard". The Galileo Project. Retrieved 2012-01-25.

3 Satterthwaite, Gilbert (2002). "Did the reflecting telescope have English origins?". The Digges Telescope. Retrieved 2012-01-25.

4 Ronan, Colin A. (1991). "Leonard and Thomas Digges". Journal of the British Astronomical Association 101 (6). Retrieved 2012-01-25.

5 Watson, Fred. Stargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope. London: Allen & Unwin. pp. 38–43.


Behind the church was the original manor, Wootton Court, and birth place to the renown mathematician and surveyor, Leonard Digges in 1520. In the 1930's and as recently as 2002, prominent scientists have speculated that the discovery of previously unpublished manuscripts from 1576 is proof that Digges should be accredited with the invention of the first reflecting and refracting telescopes between 1540 and his death in 1559. This would be almost 40 years before the Dutchman Hans Lipperhay claimed to have invented it in 1608.

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Leonard Digges, Esq, of Woolton Court's Timeline

January 11, 1520
Wotton (near Canterbury), Kent, England
Age 20
Newbury, West Berkshire, England
Age 20
Digges Court, Barham, Kent, England
January 11, 1558
Age 38
London, England