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The Science Museum: New Optical Instruments

Nature volume 143, page 673 (22 April 1939) | Download Citation



THE Science Museum has recently received from Mr. Thomas H. Court a gift of a large number of early optical, mathematical and astronomical instruments, some of which are now displayed in a single group in the Optics Gallery. Mr. Court, who celebrated his seventieth birthday last year, has spent most of his life collecting early scientific instruments, and he is a foremost authority on the subject. For the last thirty years he has been presenting his best acquisitions to the nation, so that his gifts to the Science Museum now total more than nine hundred. The seventy objects which comprise Mr. Court's most recent benefaction include an Italian recipiangle of about 1600. This is an instrument used for measuring angles in surveying, and it is also marked with lines and scales which can be used for making calculations. There is an optometer invented by Thomas Young for testing eyesight and prescribing spectacles, there are early telescopes with vellum tubes, silver drawing instruments, a diagonal glass by means of which the visitor to the theatre or opera could observe his fellow spectators while appearing to be looking through his glass at the stage, and there are several fine astronomical reflecting telescopes by such noted eighteenth century opticians as James Short, John Bird and C. S. Passemant. Among the microscopes presented are several rare instruments of the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, notably a beautiful compound microscope of the Divini-Campani form with silver mounts, a number of very fine Culpeper-type microscopes and some of the earliest achromatic microscopes by English and Continental makers.

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