Peter Dollond

Peter Dollond bigraphy, stories - British astronomer

Peter Dollond : biography

24 February 1731 – 2 July 1821

Peter Dollond (24 February 1731 – 2 July 1821 born Kensington, England) was an English maker of optical instruments, the son of John Dollond. He is known for his successful optics business, and for the invention of the apochromat.


Working together with his father and subsequently with his younger brother and nephew (George Dollond) he successfully designed and manufactured a number of optical instruments. He is particularly credited with the invention of the triple achromatic lens in 1763, still in wide use today,Ronald Pearsall, Collecting and Restoring Scientific Instruments, David and Charles, London 1974, ISBN 0-7153-6354-9 though known as the Cooke triplet after a much later 1893 patent.

Peter Dollond worked at first silk weaving with his father, but his father’s passion for optics inspired him so much that in 1750 Peter quit the silk business and opened an optical instruments shop in Kennington, London. After two years, his father gave up silk, too, and joined him.

Dollond telescopes, for sidereal or terrestrial use, were amongst the most popular in both Great Britain and abroad for a period of over one and half centuries. Admiral Lord Nelson himself owned one. Another had sailed with Captain Cook in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus.

The Peter Dollond compound chest microscope is based on improvements to the Cuff-style microscope introduced by British scientific instrument designers Edward Nairne and Thomas Blunt around 1780. Another design was for the Peter Dollond compound monocular Eriometer around 1790 used to accurately measure the thickness and size of wool fibres.

After successfully defending a legal challenge to the patent he held for the achromatic lens the business prospered and he successfully sued his rivals for patent infringement. Dollond’s reputation, especially with his father being a Fellow of the Royal Society as a result of his invention of the achromat, provided the company with the de facto right of refusal on the best optical flint glass.Daumas, Maurice, Scientific Instruments of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries and Their Makers, Portman Books, London 1989 ISBN 978-0-7134-0727-3 This privilege permitted Dollond to maintain an edge in quality over competitor’s telescopes and optical instruments for many years.

Notable customers also included:

  • Leopold Mozart
  • Frederick the Great
  • Thomas Jefferson

Dollond & Co merged with Aitchison & Co in 1927 to form Dollond & Aitchison, the well-known British high street chain of opticians.

Peter Dollond’s wife was Ann Phillips and they had two daughters, Louise and Anne.