Museum of the History of Science - Annual Report 1996-7 - (1) to No 4472

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Museum of History of Science Annual Report<br /> 1996-7 (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Museum of the History of Science: Annual Report 1996-7

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4472

Wednesday, 6 May 1998

Contents of the supplement:

To Gazette No.
4473 (7 May 1998)

Gazette Home Page

Developments in the Museum

The most significant development in the life of the Museum during the
year was the inauguration of the M.Sc. course in History of Science:
Instruments, Museums, Science, Technology. It is taught in the Museum
by the curatorial staff, making as much use as possible of the
collections. As a history of science course, taught in the context of
a museum and informed by its collections, it is understood to be the
only graduate course of its kind in the world.

Six students were admitted. Lectures, demonstrations, seminars and
tutorials were arranged through the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms and
for four weeks in Trinity. On average there were four sessions per
week, usually lasting for two hours, and in addition there were
visits to museums in Oxford, London, Cambridge and the Netherlands.
The examination comprised three written papers taken in June and a
dissertation to be submitted in September. While there were some
guest lectures, the course represents a very large increase in the
work undertaken by the staff of the museum. It had been decided that
the Museum ought to be involved in the teaching offered by the
University, and its outstanding resources can now contribute to the
general understanding of the history of science and to the future
shape of the discipline.

The Museum was awarded a grant of £1.2m by the Heritage
Lottery Fund towards the total anticipated cost of the development
project of £1.5m. This represented the maximum grant possible
under the rules governing the Fund. At a late stage in the assessment
process, the Museum was permitted to include the refurbishment of its
existing galleries in the project and this too was given the maximum
support. Already included in the plan were a new special exhibition
gallery, library, store, education room, workshop, studio and office,
as well as the refurbishment of the basement gallery. Through the
Surveyor's Office, the Museum was also successful in its application
for planning permission and listed building consent related to the
development project.

The Museum was given Full Registration status by the Museums and
Galleries Commission. Towards the end of the year, this recognition
was surpassed when the Commission announced that the Museum had been
`designated' as one of only twenty-six non-national museums in the
country containing `an outstanding collection'.

A closed-circuit television system has been installed in the
Museum for security purposes. Further developments have taken place
in the Museum's new store in Manor Road, with the installation of
extensive further racking and the movement of material from other
stores. Work continued steadily on the computerised inventory of the

Work has begun on the collaborative project with the British
Museum, the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden, and the Istituto e Museo di
Storia della Scienza in Florence, funded by Directorate-General X of
the European Commission. The outcome will be a shared public database
of instruments up to 1600. Meetings organised by the Museum have been
held in Florence and Leiden to regulate the documentation work and
the photography, which has been continuing in the individual museums.

The OSIRIS group of museums (the Mus<Theta> e des Arts et
M<Theta> tiers, the Museum Boerhaave, the Museo di Storia della
Scienza and the Museum of the History of Science) met in Leiden to
further their collaborative ventures.

With the assistance of a grant from the South Eastern Museums
Service, restoration work was completed on a terrestrial globe by
John Senex. Records of some of the Museum's older books, created by
the Early Printed Books Project, were added to the new version of
OLIS, giving the Museum library better (though still very small)
representation there.

Professor John Heilbron was appointed a Senior Research Associate
of the Museum. Dr Beryl Hartley continued her regular volunteer work
on the collections. Ms Lynn Norman resigned as Technician and
Photographer and Mr Giles Hudson was appointed to a full-time
position of Curatorial Assistant.

Visitor numbers rose again in 1996--7 to 35,744. (The equivalent
figure for 1995--6 was 31,601, and for 1994--5, 16,639.)

The accumulated deficit had been eliminated by the end of the

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`The Geometry of War' continued until the end of November 1996.

In January a new exhibition, `The Noble Dane: Images of Tycho
Brahe' opened. Its centrepiece was the newly restored painting by
Eduard Ender of Tycho Brahe at the court of Rudolph II in Prague, but
from there it went on to deal with the many different ways in which
Tycho's image has been used. The exhibition was accompanied by an
extensive article in Sphaera.

An on-line virtual version of the exhibition `The Noble Dane:
Images of Tycho Brahe' was written by the Keeper, with a contribution
by the Assistant Keeper, and designed by the Curatorial Assistant.
This has become a permanent feature of the Museum's Web site.

The exhibition `Cameras: the Technology of Photographic Imaging'
opened on 20 May. It included many of the highlights of the Museum's
collection of cameras and associated apparatus, together with a range
of early photographs. A leaflet was published to accompany the

An on-line virtual version of the exhibition `Cameras: the
Technology of Photographic Imaging' was prepared by the Senior
Assistant Keeper, with the help of the Librarian, and designed by the
Curatorial Assistant. It has been added to the set of exhibitions
offered on the Museum's Web site.

One of the students on the M.Sc. course, Jonathan Sills, wrote and
designed an on-line exhibition entitled `George Graham and Bill
Gates: a Study in Architectural Dominance'.

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Museum events

A one-day meeting with five speakers on the themes of the exhibition
`The Geometry of War' was held in the museum on Saturday 2 November.
The Assistant Keeper contributed a paper `"Sea marks to escape
the rocks": Thomas Digges and the Art of Great Ordnance'.

A one-day workshop on `The Art of Engraving', in collaboration
with the Scientific Instrument Society, was held in the Museum on
Saturday, 16 November. The programme included a talk by the
Librarian. The staff of the Map Room in the Bodleian contributed to
the workshop programme.

The Senior Assistant Keeper organised the Museum's contribution to
the Science Week (SET 97) sponsored by the British Association for
the Advancement of Science, presenting a hands-on lecture
demonstration on `Developing Image: Early Chemistry in Photography'
on 15 March. He also gave a public lecture for Museum's Education
Week: `From Marconi to Public Broadcasting', on 5 October. In May the
Museum organised a competition for Museums Week 1997. The Senior
Assistant Keeper prepared a museum guide for foreign language

A `Winter Soirée' was held for the Friends on 1 November.
The annual party was held as usual on Ashmole's birthday, 23 May. The
Museum hosted the Oxfordshire Museums Council's Christmas party on 11

The Professor of Poetry, James Fenton, devoted the Creweian
Oration at Encaenia, 25 June, in the Sheldonian Theatre, to praising
the donation to the Museum from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Teaching and seminar organisation

The main teaching work of the curatorial staff was for the new M.Sc.
course at the Museum (see above). The examiners were the Keeper
(Chairman), the Senior Assistant Keeper and the Assistant
Keeper; the External Examiner was Dr A.G. Keller of the University of

The Keeper, Senior Assistant Keeper and Assistant Keeper
contributed courses to the M.Sc. in Economic and Social History, for
which the Keeper was an examiner.

The Assistant Keeper contributed to the early-modern science paper
organised by Mr Scott Mandelbrote. He also supervised an
undergraduate project in mathematics.

In collaboration with Mr Mandelbrote, the Keeper organised a
series of eight seminars in Hilary term on `Magic, Science and
Religion in Early Modern Europe'. They were held in All Souls

In collaboration with the Maison Fran<tau> aise, the Museum
organised a one-day meeting on 13 March on `Science and
Instrumentation: Franco-British themes since 1800'.

The Museum jointly sponsored the Delta Lecture, given at the
Whipple Museum, Cambridge, by Dr David Edgerton.

For the second year, the Museum sponsored a seminar series on
`Collection and Comparison in the Sciences'. It was organised by Dr
Richard Drayton and the Keeper. There were five sessions, held in the
Museum in Trinity Term.

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Museum publications

Sphaera, The Newsletter of the Museum of the History of Science,
Oxford. Issues no. 4, Autumn 1996, and no. 5, Spring 1997.

Francis Maddison, `On the Origin of the Mariner's Astrolabe',
Sphaera, Occasional Papers, no. 2 (1997)

Exhibition leaflet: Cameras: the Technology of Photographic
Imaging, by W.D. Hackmann.

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Instrument acquisitions

The more notable acquisitions for the year were:

camera by Bencini, presented by John Gamlen;

collection of lamps and photographic items, presented by G.L'E.

large collection of microscopes and accessories, presented by the
School of Biological Sciences, Manchester University;

microscope by Cooke, Troughton & Simms, presented by the
Metrology Division, National Physical Laboratory;

microscope by Andrew Ross, a presentation instrument to Arthur
Aikin, purchased with the assistance of a grant from the PRISM Fund;

a Dudgeon's pattern and a Pachon's pattern sphygmograph by
Boulitte, presented by Mr Sykes;

ivory diptych sundial incorporating a printed map of England and
Wales, c.1600, purchased with the assistance of grants from the PRISM
Fund and the Renaissance Trust;

Cowley automatic level, presented by A. Hyder;
advertisement for a public camera obscura at Southport, purchased;
trade token issued by Thomas Williams, Oxford, c.1655, depicting a
pair of spectacles;

potentiometer by Cambridge Scientific Instrument Co. Ltd,
transferred from the Department of Engineering Science;

card scale rules and slide rule, presented by P.R. Turner;

chemical laboratory apparatus, transferred from the Department of
Earth Sciences;

microscope and microscope accessories, presented by the Manchester
Museum of Science and Industry;

microscope by W. Watson & Sons Ltd., presented by S. Holt;

set of Napier's rods, presented by H. Wynter;

Otis King cylindrical slide rule, presented by A.S. Pemberton.

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Library acquisitions

Additional papers of Professor Margaret M. Gowing (to add to the
existing archive received from Professor Gowing several years ago)
were deposited by her son Nicholas Gowing. The archive was
reorganised to incorporate the new papers and a new (provisional)
catalogue compiled.

Mr J. R. Millburn gave an important printed syllabus by Benjamin
Martin entitled `A Course of Six Lectures In the Newtonian
Experimental Philosophy' (Bath, c.1748), of which no other example is

Other gifts to the library were made by J.A. Bennett, D.J. Bryden,
J. Bullock, A. Chapman, M. Danell, O. Davies, E. Dekker, M. Dorikens,
C. Frémontier, W.D. Hackmann, T.G. Halsall, A.J. Hamber, J.L.
Heilbron, D. Hitchins, A. Humphries, N.C. Keer, D. King, H.P. Kraus,
Liverpool Astronomical Society, A. Meskens, A.D. Morrison-Low, A.Q.
Morton, G. Richet, S.R. Sarma, A.J. Turner, G.L'E. Turner, R.M.
Twist, D.S. Weaver, T.H. Wilson.

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A number of medical instruments were loaned for an exhibition at the
Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia.

Items of chemical glassware were loaned for an exhibition at
Broadfield House Glass Museum.

A protractor by George Adams was loaned to the William Chambers
exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery.

An engraving of the Museum building by Michael Burghers was loaned
to the exhibition `Tous les savoirs du monde' at the
Bibliothèque nationale, Paris.

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Filming, visits, and other events

The Keeper, the Senior Assistant Keeper, the Assistant Keeper and the
Librarian each gave a number of talks and guided tours to
special-interest groups through the year. The Keeper gave several
interviews for local radio and one for Radio 4. The Senior Assistant
Keeper was involved with filming in the galleries for the Discovery
Channel and Channel 4. The Open University also filmed in the

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Contributions by Museum staff to academic
work outside the Museum


Dr Bennett examined doctoral theses in Cambridge University and
Queen's University, Belfast. He continued as Advisory Editor on
astronomers for the New Dictionary of National Biography and as
Associate Editor for the Journal for the History of Astronomy, and
began work as an Associate Editor for the Oxford Companion to the
History of Science and its Uses. He was chair of the reviewing
committee of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments,
Harvard University. He served on the General Board Working Party on
New Educational Technologies. He was an examiner for the M.Sc. in
Economic and Social History.

Dr Bennett gave the following lectures and seminars:

4 August 1996: Commentator for the scientific instruments session,
SHOT Annual Conference, London.

1 October: `The Museum and the Web', Museum's Association Annual
Conference, Harrogate.

20 September: `Practical Geometry and Operative Knowledge',
Brandeis/Harvard Conference on New Perspectives on the Scientific
Revolution, Boston.

13 November: `Christopher Wren: a Mechanical Hand, a Philosophical
Mind', public lecture at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

26 November: `The Great Telescope of 1900', Stratford Astronomical

6 December: `Tools of Empire from British Instrument Workshops of
the Nineteenth Century', Commonwealth History Seminar, Oxford.

15--16 December: invited contributor to the `Instruments and
Travel' workshop, Max Plank Institut, Berlin.

26 February: `Practical Geometry and Operative Knowledge', All
Souls College, Oxford.

13 March 1997: `La Grande Lunette: the Spectacle of Astronomy in
1900', Maison Fran<tau> aise, Oxford.

18 March: `Mathematical Instruments in the History of Science',
Centre Koyré, Paris.

19 March: `Le Musée d'Histoire des Sciences, Oxford',
Musée du Louvre, Paris.

21 March: `Christopher Wren's Greshamite History of Geometry and
Astronomy', Birkbeck College, London.

10 April: `Virtue, Innocence and Mammon: moral themes in
instrument history', European University Institute, Florence.

18 April: `The Status of Scientific Instruments', Ministry of
Science and Technology, Lisbon.

30 May: `Wren', Chichele Lecture, All Souls College.

21 July: `Cataloguing a Collection: Problems and Solutions',
Scientific Instrument Commission, International Union for History and
Philosophy of Science, Liège.

The following publications by Dr Bennett appeared during the year:

`Science Museums as Resources for Historians', in A. Guagnini,
ed., I Laboratori dell'Università: un Incontro Bologna--Oxford
(Bologna, 1996), pp. 75--84.

`Scientific Instruments', in J. Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art
(London, 1996), vol. 28, pp. 208--12.

`Museums and the Establishment of the History of Science at Oxford
and Cambridge', British Journal for the History of Science, 30
(1997), pp. 29--46.

`The Instrument Trade in Britain', essay review in Annals of
Science, 54 (1997), pp. 197--206.

`Science and Social Policy in Ireland in the Mid-Nineteenth
Century', in P. Bowler and N. Whyte, Science and Society in Ireland
(Belfast, 1997), pp. 37--47.

`Instruments, Astronomical', in J. Lankford, ed., History of
Astronomy: an Encyclopedia (New York, 1997), pp. 269--76.

`The Noble Dane: Images of Tycho Brahe', in Sphaera, no. 5 (1997).

`The Noble Dane: Images of Tycho Brahe', on-line exhibition, with
Stephen Johnston, designed by Giles Hudson.

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Senior Assistant Keeper

Dr Hackmann continued as editor of the Bulletin of the Scientific
Instrument Society. He gave several adult education and extra-mural
courses on themes in the history of science, and was a tutor at the
Oxfordshire Sixth Form Conference.

Dr Hackmann gave the following lectures and seminars:

8 April 1997: `Scientific Instruments in Seventeenth Century Art',
Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Oxford.

5 July 1997: `T.E. Lawrence and the History of Photography', Jesus
College, Oxford.

10 July 1997: `The History and use of the Camera Lucida', St
Catherine's College, Oxford.

The following publications by Dr Hackmann appeared during the

`T.E. Lawrence and his Cameras', Sphaera, no. 5 (1997); this was
reprinted by the Lawrence Society in their Newsletter.

`Cameras: the Technology of Photographic Imaging', on-line
exhibition with Tony Simcock and Giles Hudson.

Assistant Keeper

Dr Johnston was awarded the Vasamuseets Vänner prize for 1996.
He was interviewed for the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, Uppsala,
on 5 November, and for International Radio, Swedish Broadcasting
Corporation, Stockholm, on 6 November.

Dr Johnston gave the following lectures and seminars:

14 September: `Paper Plans and Wooden Ships: Mathematics and
Shipbuilding in sixteenth and Early seventeenth-England', British
Society for the History of Mathematics, Cambridge.

5 November: `Practice as Persuasion: Promoting the Mathematical
Arts in Elizabethan England', Research seminar at the Office for
History of Science, Uppsala University.

6 November: `Ship Design and the Master Shipwright', Lecture at
Vasa Museum, Stockholm.

13 March: `Making the Arithmometer Count', Maison
Française, Oxford.

10 April: `Intellectual Virtues and Calculating Machines',
European University Institute, Florence.

The following publications by Dr Johnston appeared during the

`The identity of the mathematical practitioner in 16th-century
England' in Irmgard Hantsche (ed.), Der `mathematicus': Zur
Entwicklung und Bedeutung einer neuen Berufsgruppe in der Zeit
Gerhard Mercators, Duisburger Mercator-Studien, volume 4 (Bochum,

`Making the arithmometer count', Bulletin of the Scientific
Instrument Society, 52 (1997), 12--21.

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