historical scientific instrument gallery
 

introduction
mechanics and misc
heat and properties of matter
wave motion and sound
optics
spectra and color
polarization
electrostatics
magnetism
electric currents and meters
induction
vacuum discharges
astronomy and meteorology
mystery objects
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introduction

Select an item to view from the list below or browse through the entire collection. To view an enlargement click on the photo.



Celestial Globe
Celestial Globe #10099
W. and A.K. Johnston, Edinburgh and London

Celestial globes were made hundreds of years before enough geographical information had accumulated to make a terrestrial globe. These globes show star positions and groupings of stars in constellations with fanciful images, generally of mythological heroes and animals. Over the centuries additional constellations were added and in 1752 the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille designated thirteen new constellations based on scientific instruments such as the telescope, microscope, and vacuum pump. Several of these appear on this globe along with the more traditional ones.
Reference: Peter Whitfield, The Mapping of the Heavens, London, 1995, p.87.
Refracting Telescope
Refracting Telescope #10059
John A. Brashear

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries John Brashear (affectionately known as "Uncle John") made some of the best telescopes in the world including both small instruments for amateurs and large ones for observatories. In addition, he made such optical instruments as spectrometers and heliometers. This 4-inch telescope may have been the $384.60 expenditure ordered by D.B. Brace for the Department of Physics on December 21, 1890. It was used in the teaching of astronomy at Nebraska for many years.
References: John A. Brashear: The Autobiography of a Man Who Loved the Stars, New York, 1924; John A. Brashear Co. Catalogue Optical, Physical, Astrophysical and Astronomical Instruments, 1906.
Astronomical Chronograph
Astronomical Chronograph #10057
Societe Genovoise, Geneva

A spring operates a train of gears to rotate the large cylinder at a known low rate with a governor to regulate its speed. A pen marks a line on a paper wrapped on the cylinder. An astronomer uses a tap key to open and close a switch that actuates an electromagnet to make a jog in the line at the passage of a star across the meridian as he watches through a transit telescope. Another jog at the passage of a reference star allows him or her to determine the time interval and thus the angular separation between the two stars.
Reference: Robert Bud and Deborah Jean Warner, Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia, New York, 1998, pp.110-12.
Wind Vane
Wind Vane #10280
J.P. Friez, Baltimore, MD

In the early years of the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska Office of the U.S. Weather Bureau was housed on campus and courses in meteorology were taught. When D.B. Brace arrived in 1887 one of his responsibilities was the operation of the meteorological station. When Brace Laboratory was built in 1905 the station was on the third floor and sometime after 1914 this wind vane was installed on top of the building. J.P. Friez was one of the major makers of meteorological apparatus in this country.
References: M. Eugene Rudd, "Julien P. Friez: An Important American Meteorological Instrument Maker," Rittenhouse 8, 114-123 (1994); Julien P. Friez Illustrated Catalogue of Meteorological Instruments and Apparatus, 1893.