Museum of the History of Science - Annual Report 1997-8 - (2) to No 4517



<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Annual Report of Museum of History of Science<br /> 1997-8 (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Museum of the History of Science: Annual Report 1997--8

Supplement (2) to Gazette No. 4517

Wednesday, 30 June 1999


To
Gazette No. 4518 (1 July 1999)

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Contents of the supplement:



Developments in the Museum

In preparation for the forthcoming building and refurbishment work at the
Museum, work began on packing and removing the collection to store. It was
decided to take this opportunity to introduce phase two of the inventory
project and at the same time to make a uniform photographic record of the
collection as packing proceeds. This is a huge task, since it involves
re-cataloguing the whole collection, but it is essential to the proper
management of the collection in the future. The completed inventory will also
be vital to re-establishing the displays after the completion of the
development work.

Site investigations, preparatory to building work, began on 14 April. The
Museum was closed to the public from 1 July.

The Museum's main store was extended, new shelving and other necessary
equipment installed, and material transferred there from the other stores. This
represented a great deal of work, but it has solved the Museum's major
storage problems for the time being, and so removed the final condition
attached to full registration by the Museums and Galleries Commission.

The `Epact' project, co-ordinated by the Museum and funded by the European
Commission, continued its work on a joint computer database of instruments
before 1600. The other partners in the project are the Museo di Storia della
Scienza, Florence, the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden, and the British Museum,
London. Two meetings of all the partners were arranged, and held in London
and in Oxford (25 to 27 June), while cataloguing, photography and design
work continued in Oxford. A former student from the M.Sc. course in the
Museum, Ilaria Meliconi, has played a significant part in cataloguing
instruments in three of the museums contributing to Epact. The completed
database of pictures and text is expected to be made available to the public
in September 1998.

The Museum initiated a proposal for an international on-line register of
scientific instruments. This would hold information on individual objects
submitted by the holding institutions, and could be interrogated via the
internet. The project was enthusiastically received by a meeting of the
Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union of the History and
Philosophy of Science in July, a website for the register has been established,
and a pilot version is running there as the scheme is developed.

The `OSIRIS' group of museums, comprising museums of science in Florence,
Leiden, Paris and Oxford, held two meetings to plan their joint projects, in
Paris and in Oxford (25 May). The other museums in the group decided to
support and to join the Oxford proposal for an international on-line register
of instruments.

Further measures were taken to improve the physical security of the
collection. As a result of improvements on this front, the Museum is once again
eligible for grants from central government agencies, such as the PRISM Fund
of the Museums and Galleries Commission.

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Exhibitions

The Exhibition `Cameras: the Technology of Photographic Imaging' closed on
13 September.

A new exhibition, `Fire and Art: Electrical Practice in the Eighteenth Century',
was organised by Paola Bertucci, a D.Phil. student who had recently completed
the M.Sc. course at the Museum. Ms Bertucci arranged a series of public talks
in the exhibition, which ran from 13 November to 14 February.

Running concurrently with the exhibition `Fire and Art', was a smaller one on
the `Epact' project relating to instruments before 1600.

The Museum joined with the Bodleian Library to mount an exhibition in the
public gallery at Bodley, entitled `The Garden, the Ark, the Tower, the Temple:
Biblical Metaphors of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe'. It ran from 2
February to 2 May. Mr Scott Mandelbrote of All Souls College and the Keeper
selected the exhibits – mostly books, but also some loaned objects –
and wrote
the catalogue, which was designed at the Museum by the Curatorial Assistant
and published jointly by the Museum and the Bodleian. The Museum also
organised a series of public lectures linked to the exhibition.

The Museum joined the Maison Française d'Oxford in sponsoring the
mounting in Oxford of the exhibition `Un Monde Fractal', from 9 February to
28 February. It also hosted a reception for the British Society for the History
of Mathematics in the exhibition.

The students on the Museum's M.Sc. course, as part of their course, organised
and mounted an exhibition at the Museum from 10 March to 27 June. The title
was `Lines of Faith: Instruments and Religious Practice in Islam'. All the work
was undertaken by the students, with only marginal help and some oversight
from the Museum staff. The outcomes included a web-version of the exhibition
and an article in Sphaera. The students also organised and
delivered a series of public talks in the exhibition.

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Museum events

Mark Fisher, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Media
and Sport, visited the Museum on 20 October. He presented certificates to the
University's four `designated' museums in a short ceremony in the top gallery,
attended by the Vice-Chancellor.

Having viewed the Museum's web-site on his visit on 20 October, in a speech
at the Museums and Galleries Commission on 11 November, Mr Fisher cited the
Museum's policy of mounting permanent on-line versions of its temporary
exhibitions and making these available via the internet, as an example that
should be emulated elsewhere.

The Keeper attended the `Reception for the Arts' given by the Queen on 29
May at Windsor Castle.

The Senior Assistant Keeper was given the title of `Reader in the History of
Science'.

The Museum accepted responsibility for hosting the websites of the Scientific
Instrument Commission and the Scientific Instrument Society.

The Museum was the subject of a feature story and cover illustration in
Oxford Today.

The Museum offered guided tours of `the seventeenth-century museum' to
groups of visitors in a special Sunday opening for `Heritage Day' on 20
September. Tutors from language schools were introduced to the Museum on
21 October, and an education pack prepared for them by the Senior Assistant
Keeper. On 26 November members of the Friends' Organisation were taken on
a tour of the original buildings of the Radcliffe Observatory. On 28 December
the Museum organised a `refresher' visit for the Oxford Guild of Guides. For
Museums Week, 16-24 May, the Museum organised a competition based on the
geography of European instrument making. On 23 May, Elias Ashmole's
birthday was celebrated by a party with a rock-and-roll band in the basement
cleared of instruments and cases.

Two Delta Lectures, sponsored jointly by the Museum, the Whipple Museum and
the South Kensington Institute for the History of Technology, took place
during the year. The first, held in London on 19 November, was given by Dr
Otto Sibum of the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. On
22 May, in Oxford, Professor John North of the University of Groningen, gave
a lecture on `The Ambassadors' Secret: a new study of Holbein's painting'. For
the latter lecture, an all-ticket event where the tickets were free, the
basement was packed with some 120 people.

Public lectures linked to the special exhibition, `The Garden, the Ark, the
Tower, the Temple: Biblical Metaphors of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe',
were held on the four Thursday evenings in February, and were very well
attended. The lectures were given alternately by Scott Mandelbrote and the
Keeper.

The Librarian completed the retrospective accessions register (bringing up to
date the primary handwritten record of the museum's acquisitions, 1969--97),
to replace a loose-leaf system which had proved unsatisfactory and to conform
to MGC registration requirements.

A Senex terrestrial globe was conserved with the assistance of a grant from
the South Eastern Museums Service.

A number of volunteers worked in the Museum for different periods
throughout the year: Felicity Clark, Marie Creswell, Beryl Hartley and Bethan
Rigby.

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Teaching and seminar organisation

The first year of the M.Sc. course at the Museum (History of Science:
Instruments, Museums, Science, Technology) was completed and the vivas held
in October. The final examiners' meeting recommended the award of the degree
to five of the six students. Seven students were admitted to the 1997-98
course, and its international character was maintained by the new intake, with
students from Denmark, France, Ireland, Norway, the United States of America,
and the United Kingdom. The course represents the main teaching effort of
the Museum's staff, and 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 Leicester.

The Keeper and the Assistant Keeper contributed to the M.Sc. in Economic and
Social History: the former with two sessions on `Galileo and the Historians', the
latter by two on the history of technology. The Keeper was an Examiner for
this degree.

The Keeper was supervisor for two D.Phil. students.

The Assistant Keeper contributed to teaching for the early-modern science
paper organised by Mr Scott Mandelbrote.

The Keeper and the Assistant Keeper were involved with an initiative to
introduce a new paper for first-year history undergraduates, `Gunpowder,
Compass and Printing Press: Technology and Society in Early Modern
Europe'.

The Museum joined with the Maison Française d'Oxford in organising a
half-day symposium on 4 December under the title `What is the History of
Scientific Instruments? Reflections on Maurice Daumas, Les Instruments
scientifiques aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles
'. The Keeper and
Assistant Keeper contributed papers, while three speakers came from France
for the occasion. The Museum was also associated with a one-day meeting at
the Maison Française on 21 February, `Canguilhem–Foucault:
Recasting
the French Epistemological Tradition'.

The Keeper collaborated with three other members of the Modern History
Faculty in organising a series of seminars, held in All Souls College in the
Hilary Term, on the life and influence of Samuel Hartlib.

Dr Richard Drayton and the Keeper organised a series of seminars on
`Collection and Comparison in the Sciences', held in the Museum in Trinity
Term.

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Museum publications

Jim Bennett and Scott Mandelbrote, The Garden, the Ark, the Tower, the
Temple: Biblical Metaphors of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

(1998)

Sphaera, The Newsletter of the Museum of the History of Science,
Oxford. Issues no 6, Autumn 1997, and no. 7, Spring 1998.

Jim Bennett, `What is the History of Scientific Instruments? Reflections on
Maurice Daumas, Les Instruments scientifiques aux XVIIe et XVIIIe
siècles
, Sphaera, Occasional Papers, no. 3 (1997)

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Instrument and object acquisitions

The most significant acquisition was a collection of 350 items of anaesthetic
apparatus from the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the John Radcliffe
Hospital. The collection was already catalogued and photographed, and the
catalogue available on the web.

Other notable acquisitions during the year were:

twenty lantern slides belonging to the late Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark and used
in his human anatomy teaching in the Department of Human Anatomy,
Oxford, 1920s--1950s, presented by Dr Savile Bradbury;

wooden quadrant and proportional scale, 19th century, purchased;

`Patholux' photographic microscope by Vickers Instruments Ltd, presented by
P.M. Greaves;

group of photographs belonging to the late Mr A. P. Riza, mostly family
portraits and snapshots, 1890s-1930s, bequeathed by Mr Riza to
complement his previous donations;

astro-compass, c.1940, presented by R. Torode;

heliograph, presented by R. Torode;

racing pigeon timer by Gaston Simon, early twentieth century, purchased;

twenty-seven lantern slides for a lecture on perpetual motion belonging to the
late mathematician C. A. Coulson, ?1950s, presented by Ms Wendy Spray;

ciné-camera by André Debrie, Paris, 1921, presented by G.R.K.
Quelch;

aneroid barometer, presented by Jeremy Montagu;

two slide rules, presented by Jeremy Montagu;

eudiometer by J. Newman, early nineteenth century, presented by the Greater
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry;

two ceramic penicillin culture vessels, presented by the Greater Manchester
Museum of Science and Industry;

replica cross-staff, presented by Dr A. Chapman;

replica stone Islamic sundial, purchased;

Jules Richard stereo camera and viewer, purchased with the assistance of a
grant from the PRISM Fund;

set of Russian matchboxes with illustrations of scientific and technical
artefacts, presented by Dr V.P. Borissov;

three mechanical calculating machines, transferred from the University
Offices;

engraved portrait of William Cullen, c.1790; presented by Mr
Anthony Lummis.

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Library acquisitions

Noteworthy library acquisitions during the year include:

A collection of archival material from the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, Oxford,
mostly assembled by Sir Ewart Jones (Professor, 1955--78) and relating to the
history of that laboratory (founded 1916) and other aspects of the history of
chemistry, 19th century to 1970s; transferred from the Dyson Perrins
Laboratory.

A small group of manuscript papers of H.E. Stapleton from his collaborator
Professor Geoffrey Lewis, and Lewis's correspondence relating to their
collaboration, 1900s to 1950s; presented by Professor Lewis.

A collection of manuscripts relating to the Dollond family of instrument makers:
2 items purchased, the rest (including existing Blundell Collection) presented
by Mrs Mary Dollond Keates.

Twelve (odd) volumes of The Nautical Almanac..., 1767--1830, some
with Radcliffe Observatory stamps or bookplates plus 2 volumes of Tables
Requisite...
, 1781 and n.d., one with Rigaud's signature.

Other gifts to the library were made by Mr John Bullock, Prof. Christoph
Meinel, Prof. Gerard Turner, Dr Piero Todesco, Dr J. A. Bennett, Mr J. R.
Millburn, Dr Allan Chapman, Mr A. J. Turner, M. Armand Beaulieu, Mr A. G.
MacGregor, Mr D. Freiburger, Prof. R. Fox, Mr Ken Kalling, Dr S. Johnston,
Prof. J. D. North, Dr D. J. Bryden, Dr C. Hammond, Dr M. Dorikens, Dr A.
McConnell, Mr I. C. Symington, Dr A. A. Mills, Mme M. Bonhomme.

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Loans

Five instruments were loaned to the `Holbein's Ambassadors' exhibition in the
`Making and Meaning' series at the National Gallery. The most famous was the
polyhedral sundial attributable to Nicolaus Kratzer and bearing Cardinal
Wolsey's coat of arms. The others were a German cylinder dial, a French
equinoctial dial, a pair of dividers and an English quadrant.

Five instruments were also lent to an exhibition at the British Museum,
`Humphrey Cole: Mint, Measurement and Maps in Elizabethan England'. Each
was signed by Cole and dated: a compendium of 1568, a folding rule of 1575,
a horizontal sundial of 1579, a plane table alidade of 1582, and an altazimuth
theodolite of 1586.

Seven instruments from the Museum were included in the exhibition `Scientific
Instruments of the Sixteenth Century: the Spanish Court and the School of
Louvain', held at the Fundación Carlos de Amberes in Madrid.

Two of the Museum's set of seventeenth-century Chinese prints of astronomical
instruments at the Imperial Observatory, Beijing, were loaned to an exhibition
at the Science Museum on the work of the PRISM Fund.

The photographic processing apparatus of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was
lent to separate exhibitions at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and
the Museum of Oxford.

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Filming, broadcasting, visits

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 interviews for Radio 3, Talk Radio,
BBC World Service and Thames Valley Radio. The Senior Assistant Keeper was
filmed for two programmes in James Burke's Connections series. The
Assistant
Keeper gave an interview for Norwegian Radio NRK 2.

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Contributions by Museum staff to academic work
outside the Museum

Keeper

Dr Bennett became President of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the
International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science. He continued as
Advisory Editor on astronomers for the New Dictionary of National
Biography
, Associate Editor for the Journal for the History of
Astronomy
, and an Associate Editor for the Oxford Companion to
the History of Science
. He was a member of the South Eastern Museums
Service working party for the survey of University Collections, a member of
the committee of the University Museums Group, and an examiner for the M.Sc.
in Economic and Social History. He was Ph.D. supervisor for a student from
City University.

The following publications by Dr Bennett appeared during the year:

`History, Horology and Harrison', essay review in Antiquarian
Horology
, 23 (1997), pp. 451-6, with supplementary contributions at ibid.,
pp. 560--1 and ibid., 24 (1998), 79--81

`Malpighi and the Microscope', in D. Bertoloni Meli, ed., Marcello Malpighi:
Anatomist and Physician
(Florence, 1997), pp. 63–72

(with J. Bowen and I. Morrison), `Working the Web', Museums
Journal
, 97, part 2 (1997), 28–9

`The Career of John Flamsteed: Nobility, Morality and Public Utility', in F.
Willmoth, ed., Flamsteed's Stars: New Perspectives on the Life and Work
of the First Astronomer Royal
(Woodbridge, 1997), pp. 17–30

`Le Musée d'Histoire des Sciences d'Oxford', Musée des Arts
et Métiers. La Revue
, no. 21 (1997), 30–8

`What is the History of Scientific Instruments? Reflections on Maurice Daumas,
Les Instruments Scientifiques aux XVIIe et XVIIIe Siècles,
Sphaera Occasional Paper, no. 3 (Oxford, 1997)

`Circumferentor', `Octant', `Plane table', `Quadrant', `Sextant', `Theodolite', in
R. Bud and D.J. Warner, eds., Instruments of Science: an Historical
Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1998)

`Can Science Museums Take History Seriously?', reprinted in S. Macdonald, ed.,
The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture (London:
Routledge, 1998), pp. 173–82

`Les Techniques du Grand Large', Les Cahiers de Science et Vie,
no. 44 (1998), 20–5

(with Scott Mandelbrote) The Garden, the Ark, the Tower, the Temple:
Biblical Metaphors of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
(Oxford:
Museum of the History of Science and Bodleian Library, 1998)

Dr Bennett gave the following lectures and seminars:

20 August, `Science and the Eighteenth-Century Gentleman', University of
Virginia Course, Trinity College, Oxford

22 September, `Sixteenth-Century Geometry: the View from the Museum',
Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques, Luminy-Marseille

4 December, `What is the History of Scientific Instruments?', Maison
Française, Oxford

5 December, `Surveying Instruments in Context: Ireland, America and Coal
Mines', Commonwealth History Seminar, Oxford

20 January onwards, `Renaissance and Early-Modern Instruments', four
lectures contributed to the V&A / RCA masters course on the History of
Design and Decorative Art

22 January, `Sixteenth-Century Instruments', British Horological Institute,
Cheltenham

2 April, `Representing the World in the Sixteenth Century: the Ambiguous
Role of Mathematical Instruments', Istituto Universitario di Architettura di
Venezia, Venice

22 April, `The Astronomical Career of John Flamsteed', Department of
History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge

23 July (with Mr Hudson) `A Proposal for an On-Line Register of Scientific
Instruments', International Scientific Instrument Symposium, Soroe, Denmark

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Senior Assistant Keeper

Dr Hackmann was on sabbatical leave for three months, October to December.
He continued as editor of the Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society. He
was examiner for a D.Phil. dissertation in Oxford and external examiner in
History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Bath. He was a tutor
at the Oxfordshire Sixth Form Conference, 25–30 June, and at the
Oxford–Berkeley Summer School, 29 June–8 July. He continued as
Tutor for Admissions at Linacre College.

The following publications by Dr Hackmann appeared during the year:

Catalogue of the Pneumatic, Magnetic, Electrostatic, and Electromagnetic
Instruments in the Museo di Storia della Scienza
(Florence: Giunti,
1997)

`Electrometer', `Electroscope', `Electrostatic Machine', `Galvanometer', `Induction
Coil', `Leyden Jar', `Sonar', `Thermopile', in R. Bud and D.J. Warner, eds.,
Instruments of Science: an Historical Encyclopedia (New York:
Garland Publishing, 1998)

Dr Hackmann gave the following lectures and seminars:

19 September, `Scientific Instruments in the Henry VIII Inventory', at the
Henry VIII Inventory Workshop, Bristol

31 October, `Electricity and Model Experiments', Department of the History
of Science, Bologna

13 November, `Joseph Priestly and Electricity: a lecture-demonstration',
Scientific Instrument Society and the Lunar Society, Birmingham

25 November, `Science in Oxford in the Tudor and Stuart Period', Rewley
House, Oxford

10 December, `Scientific Instruments at the Time of Henry VIII in His
Inventories and in Paintings', Dilettante Society, London

25 March, `Visualisation in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Natural
Philosophy', History of Science Department, University of Bath

10 July, `Making and Using a Camera Lucida for Landscape and
Architectural Drawings: a lecture and demonstration', at the `Lawrence and
Travels in Egypt Conference', Nuffield College, Oxford

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Assistant Keeper

The following publications by Dr Johnston appeared during the year:

Associate editor, Instruments of Science: an Historical
Encyclopedia
, eds. R. Bud and D.J. Warner (New York: Garland
Publishing, 1998)

`Astrolabe, Mariner's', `Drawing instruments', and `Pantograph', in Bud and
Warner (eds.), Instruments of Science

`Le Spectacle du calcul', Musée des Arts et Métiers. La
Revue
, 23 (1998), 23–32

Dr Johnston gave the following lectures and seminars:

22 October, `Competition as controversy: the machinery of calculation in
19th-century France', Science Museum, London

6 November, `Plats and plots: cartography and design at 16th-century
Dover', Oxford Cartography Seminar, Bodleian Library

19 November, `Mathematics and material culture: artefacts and practice in
16th-century England', Division of History and Philosophy of Science,
University of Leeds

4 December, `Curators, historians and instruments', Maison Française,
Oxford

31 March, `Technologies of mathematics in 16th-century England', University
of Bologna

7 April, `The geometry of war', Centre for Medieval and Renaissance
Studies, Oxford

17 June, `Fantastic numbers: 19th-century visions of the present and
future of machine calculation', British Society for the History of Science,
Manchester

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Curatorial Assistant

The following publications by Mr Hudson appeared during the year:

`Torquetum', in R. Bud and D.J. Warner, eds., Instruments of Science: an
Historical Encyclopedia
(New York: Garland Publishing, 1998)

`A Planispheric Astrolabe by Regnerus Arsenius', Sphaera, no. 7
(1998), p. 7

Mr Hudson gave the following lecture:

23 July (with Dr Bennett), `A Proposal for an On-Line Register of Scientific
Instruments', International Scientific Instrument Symposium, Soroe, Denmark

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