SCIENCE

Man with a vision: Quest for world's oldest telescopes takes curator to corners of the globe

  • Marvin Bolt demonstrates a 19th Century telescope built in to a walking stick at his office at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. in February 2015.  Bolt is on a world-wide quest to track down and catalog the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the 1600s. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

    Marvin Bolt demonstrates a 19th Century telescope built in to a walking stick at his office at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. in February 2015. Bolt is on a world-wide quest to track down and catalog the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the 1600s. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)  (The Associated Press)

  • Marvin Bolt examines a telescope, made in 1910, that is a replica of an 1800-era telescope, at his office at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. in February 2015.  Bolt is on a world-wide quest to track down and catalog the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the 1600s.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)

    Marvin Bolt examines a telescope, made in 1910, that is a replica of an 1800-era telescope, at his office at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. in February 2015. Bolt is on a world-wide quest to track down and catalog the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the 1600s. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this June 24, 2008, photo provided by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, a five inch long telescope from the collection of Marvin Bolt in shown. Bolt, the science and technology curator at New York’s Corning Museum of Glass is on a worldwide quest to track down the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the early 1600s and the days of Galileo. (AP Photo/Adler Planetarium, Steve Pitkin)

    In this June 24, 2008, photo provided by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, a five inch long telescope from the collection of Marvin Bolt in shown. Bolt, the science and technology curator at New York’s Corning Museum of Glass is on a worldwide quest to track down the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the early 1600s and the days of Galileo. (AP Photo/Adler Planetarium, Steve Pitkin)  (The Associated Press)

You could say Marvin Bolt takes the long view.

The science and technology curator at New York's Corning Museum of Glass is on a worldwide quest to track down the oldest telescopes known to man, including those dating to the early 1600s and the days of Galileo.

So far, Bolt's traced more than 1,000 telescopes made before 1750 to collections and museums throughout Europe. That's where the hand-held instruments first opened astronomers' eyes to moons and planets and served as military surveillance tools.

The work is backed by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

Bolt is surprised at the number of telescopes that have survived. Early telescopes were made from rolled paper covered in leather or fish skin and have delicate glass lenses.