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A few 18th Century Items from Patrick Copland's Apparatus

Patrick Copland, Professor at Marischal College from 1775 to 1822, was a pioneer of university teaching by demonstration. In spite of the poverty of Marischal College he assembled an impressive cabinet of equipment, which was said by 19th century contemporaries to be the best in the country. He did this by a combination of seeking grants, patronage and most importantly making equipment himself. His craftsmanship was said to be the 'equal to the best makers in London'. He had a full workshop of tools for working in wood, metal and glass, including a Holtzapfel lathe and dies by none other than Jesse Ramsden, whom he knew personally.

None of Copland's work was signed, such as one might expect from a commercial manufacture, but an inventory of over 500 items was drawn up around the time of his death, when the College suddenly managed to find money to purchase the collection. The instruments were seen as working tools for teaching, not as museum items, and correspondingly suffered from wear, tear, plunder and obsolescence. The survival of even 10% of his inventory in whole or in part is mainly due to chance and abandonment in cupboards, for Copland's name largely disappeared from the consciousness of his successors. It has taken posterity some two centuries to recover the knowledge possessed by his contemporaries, namely that Copland was an exceptional individual who influenced many people in his day, both within the University and outside.


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