TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Julian Holland on The David H.H. Felix Collection and the Beginnings of the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology describes how Felix, a Philadelphia lawyer, collected scientific instruments in the 1950s. A correspondence with pioneering antique scientific instruments expert Derek Price in 1957 cast doubt on the authenticity of several of Felix’s instruments. Nevertheless, a substantial portion of Felix’s collection was lent to the Smithsonian’s new Museum of History and Technology when it opened in 1964. The collection was ultimately dispersed at auction in 1985. This article sheds light on the character of the antique scientific instrument market in the mid twentieth century.
- William B. Jensen on The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry discusses the Oesper Collections which were founded in 1986. This overview article deals with the apparatus museum portion of the collections, including its history, current displays, collection policies, and publications.
- Thomas Greenslade on Devices to Demonstrate Polarization Phenomena follows the early physical observations leading to the discovery of polarization in the early 19th century and the subsequent developments of apparatus to observer and make use of the effects. Tom’s next contribution is The Manometric Flame, first described by Rudolph Koenig in 1862, was the first device that enabled an acoustic signal to be turned into a visible signal. The sound waves are made to modulate the supply of gas to a small flame, and the resulting variations in the height of the flame are viewed in a rotating mirror. Today we can do the same thing with a microphone and an oscilloscope, but at a vastly larger expense. Tom has finished out the year with a piece on The Apparatus of Alfred P. Gage through which, to supplement his books, Gage produced a line of apparatus for the newly-emerging high school physics laboratory of the 19th century. But only a very few have survived in collections in the USA.
- Sara J. Schechner on The Art of Making Leyden Jars and Batteries According to Benjamin Franklin makes the case for the Leyden jar being arguably the most important instrument for electrical experiments in the second half of the 18th century, and Benjamin Franklin’s fame as a natural philosopher was based largely on his explanation of how it worked. In two remarkable letters written in the 1750s to scholars in Boston, Franklin offers instruction on the making of Leyden jars and assembling them into batteries. The letters also illustrate the challenges of getting and maintaining natural philosophical apparatus in colonial America, and a culture of recycling goods in order to make do. Sara is the David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and a Lecturer on History of Science at Harvard University. Her latest books include Tangible Things: Making History through Objects (2015) and Time and Time Again: How Science and Culture Shape the Past, Present, and Future (2014). She is currently researching the sourcing of scientific glass in North America from 1600-1950.
- Marcus Granato and Márcia Pinheiro Ferreira on Building the Timeline of the Bamberg Elbow Transit Telescope From the MAST Collection. Museum of Astronomy and Related Sciences which is a science and technology museum located in Rio de Janeiro. Part of the National Observatory’s tangible heritage was transferred to MAST for its safeguard when the museum was created in 1985. This research focuses on one historical scientific instrument in particular, addressing the timeline of the Bamberg elbow transit telescope, part of the MAST collection, with the aim of gathering knowledge and information to help plan the restoration of this instrument.
- Field Notes
- John Gilbert on Recollections of an observer at Eureka in the IGY
- Scientific Instruments on Display Edited by: Silke Ackermann, Richard L. Kremer, and Mara Miniati reviewed by Deborah Jean Warner
- About Our Authors
Márcia Pinheiro Ferreira has been an Art Conservator since 1991 and holds a post-graduate degree in Preservation of Science and Technology Assets (2012) from MAST. She is a technologist of the Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa – Ministry of Culture in Brazil.
John Gilbert (Field Notes: Recollections of an observer at Eureka in the IGY) received his early education at King Alfred School where the headmaster was Frederick Spencer Chapman, a member of the 1930-31 British Arctic Air-Route Expedition and a subsequent Greenland Expedition in 1932–33. Immigrating to Canada in 1953, John developed an interest in radio communications and from 1956 to 1958 served as a Radio Operator at Resolute Bay and Eureka, Nunavut. A graduate of Carleton University (Ottawa), he followed a career in telecommunications and information technology and was the Executive Secretary of the 1984 Worldwide Commission on Telecommunications under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, a UN specialized agency. John has been associated for many years with UNESCO. He maintained a life-long interest in the High Arctic and has compiled a collection of photographs, documents and stories on the Joint Arctic Weather Stations: 1947-72. In 2014 he curated an exhibit at the University of Manitoba on Dr. Andrew Taylor, one of the founders of the weather stations in the High Arctic.
Marcus Granato a holds bachelor’s (1980), master’s (1993) and doctoral (2003) degrees in metallurgical and materials engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He is the Coordinator of Museology at MAST since 2004, lecturer and vice-coordinator of the Postgraduate Programme in Museology and Heritage at UNIRIO/MAST.
Tom Greenslade is an emeritus professor (physics) at Kenyon Collage and a frequent contributor to eRittenhouse. He most recently presented two papers at the American Association of Physics Teachers and has published more than 600 papers many of which have appeared in The Physics Teacher and American Journal of Physics. Dr. Greenslade has recently been honored as a Fellow of the American Physical Society and he is also a Fellow of the American Ass’n of Physics Teachers.
Julian Holland, based in Sydney, Australia, is a retired museum curator specialising in scientific instruments.
William B. Jensen was Oesper Professor of Chemical Education and History of Chemistry at the University of Cincinnati from 1986-2011, where, as Professor Emeritus, he continues to act as curator of the Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry. Author of more than 250 papers and reviews and three books in the fields of inorganic chemistry, chemical education, and history of chemistry, Dr Jensen is currently attempting to document the museum’s holdings via publication of a series of Museum Booklets dealing with the various kinds of apparatus in its collections.
Deborah Jean Warner is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Washington and the founding editor of Rittenhouse, the forerunner of eRittenhouse.