International interest in scientific instruments

Sunday 27 April 2003

Members of an international group interested in scientific instruments will visit the University of St Andrews this week (Wednesday 30th April, 2003) to view its world-renowned collection of historical instruments.

The University will host a visit of the Scientific Instrument Society (SIS), which is visiting museums and universities across Scotland as part of their annual, week-long conference. Delegates from Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada and the USA, as well as from across the UK, will be welcomed by the University’s Principal and Vice- Chancellor, Dr Brian Lang.

Dr Lang said: “The excitement of scientific instruments over the centuries is the way in which they demonstrate how science, design and craftsmanship come together to serve not just scientific endeavour, but also to give us what frequently may be regarded as works of art.”

During their visit, the group will examine historic navigational instruments including the magnificent Great Astrolabe and Universal Instrument, made by Humphrey Cole of London, in 1575 and 1582 respectively, and the only definite English example of a mariner’s astrolabe, made by Elias Allen in 1616. They will also see what is believed to be the world’s first split seconds clock, commissioned in 1673 by James Gregory, Professor of Mathematics of the University. Gregory, who was one of the most prominent scientists of his day and corresponded with Sir Isaac Newton, used the clock to aid his research, by measuring small intervals of time accurately.

The group will then view displays in the Schools of Psychology and Physics and Astronomy, which feature later instruments, such as a model beam engine of 1824, once used in the teaching of Natural Philosophy.

The University’s Curator, Helen Rawson, commented:

“The University’s collection of historic scientific instruments is outstanding and world-renowned. We are delighted to welcome members of the Scientific Instrument Society from many countries, and look forward to sharing information and expertise in this field”.


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected] Ref: SIS Museums visit 280403.doc View the latest University news at

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