Natural Philosophy Collection

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Up BSHSdisplay » 19th Century Apparatus Slideshow

Patrick Copland of Marischal College was passionate about teaching through demonstration for the 47 years he taught Natural Philosophy.  By the time he died in 1822 the inventory of his equipment numbered well over 500 items.  A contemporary in similar mould was Georg Lichtenberg of Göttingen University, with whom he had no known contact.

Copland’s successors carried on this emphasis, though they lacked his ability to make their own equipment.  In Copland’s day each discipline had only one member of staff, the Professor.  In the second half of the 19th century assistants became the norm in practical subjects like Natural Philosophy but even so a substantial burden fell on the Professor to set up the equipment in working condition prior to its use, no mean feat. 

Funds in the College were stretched to purchase new pieces and maintain existing stock.  Much of Copland’s inventory was lost in the 19th century as new branches of physics became important, emphasis on ‘applications’ decreased while that on ‘pure science’ increased and commercial manufacturing techniques improved to the extent that equipment became more polished and sophisticated.

Our collection contains 19th century demonstration equipment covering a wide range of subject areas, many London makers, some continental suppliers and even more anonymous items.


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