James Short (10 June O.S. (21 June N.S.) 1710 – 15 June 1768) was a Scottish mathematician, optician and telescope maker.
Born at Edinburgh in 1710 and originally educated for the church at the Royal High School, Short attracted the attention of Maclaurin, professor of mathematics at the university, who around 1732 gave him permission to use his rooms in the college buildings for experiments in the construction of telescopes.
In Short's first telescopes the specula were made of glass, as suggested by James Gregory, but later he used metallic specula only, and thus succeeded in giving them true parabolic and elliptic shapes. Short then adopted telescope-making as his profession, which he practised first in Edinburgh and afterwards in London.
Almost all of Short's telescopes were of the Gregorian form, and some of them even today retain their original high polish and sharp definition.
In 1736 Queen Caroline requested him to instruct her second son, William, in mathematics.
In Mar 1737, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1758, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Short died in Newington Butts, London in 1768, having made a considerable fortune from his profession.