Whipple Museum of the History of Science (I)

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The Whipple is a University of Cambridge museum within the Department of History and Philosophy of Science. During the 1930s and 1940s, there were strong initiatives to establish history of science within the University and an exhibition of the historical scientific apparatus owned by various colleges was held in 1936. Soon after, a History of Science Lectures Comittee was established which, together with the Cambridge Philosophical Society, negotiated in 1944 a donation of antique scientific instruments and rare books from Robert Stewart Whipple (1871-1953), former Director of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company.

So, let’s start our visit in the main room:

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

The astronomical objects are very usual in this kind of museums and here you have a Newtonian “Herschdel Telescope” (c.1790) which was presented by George III to the Duke of Marlborough and it was placed in the Observatory at Blenheim Palace until it was given to Herschel’s great-grandson, Mr. Joseph A. Hardcastle (1816-1911).

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Sir William Herschel achieved public acclaim and royal favour through his discovery of the planet Uranus, which he originally called Georgium Sidus, to honour King George III in 1781. A few years later George III requested that he make a number of telescopes. This is one of five 10-ft reflecting telescopes made in response to that request. Following Herschel’s standard design, the King’s cabinet-maker constructed the mahogany stand and tube. Herschdel made the optical parts himself.

There also are polyhedral sundials, more telescopes, astrolabes,…

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

… and this wonderful planetarium made by George Adams around 1750.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This grand Orrery, which is not to scale, displays the Sun in the centre, and the 6 then known planets and their satellites; 4 around Jupiter and 5 around Saturn. The planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto had not yet been discovered.

Now, let’s teke a look at the collection of astrolabes and sundials but… it will be done in the next post!

Location: Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge (map)

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