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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Microscope.
© National Museums Scotland


This brass microscope (pictured here in its wooden case) was made between 1823 and 1829 by Alexander Adie (1775-1858), a scientific instrument maker based in Edinburgh. It is the earliest known polarising microscope.

Among the instrument's main accessories are seven objectives and three polarising devices. Most of the parts are engraved 'R.S.E.' or 'ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH', for whom it was ordered by the secretary, David Brewster (1781-1868).

By the time the instrument was delivered to the Royal Society in 1829, the cumbersome polarising apparatus had been rendered obsolete by the convenient Nicol prism, invented by the Edinburgh geologist William Nicol (1768-1851).

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-001-068-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1982.90
Date: 1823 - 1829
Between 1823 and 1829
Material: Brass / tourmaline eyepiece. Inscription: Adie / EDINBURGH; ROYAL SOCIETY EDINBURGH
Dimensions: 750 mm x 330 mm x 100 mm deep; 940 mm H x 480 mm [assembled]
What: Microscope / accessory / box
Who: Adie, Edinburgh (Maker)
Cary (Eponym)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Large Cary type microscope of brass, contained in a fitted box with accessories, signed by Adie of Edinburgh, 1823 - 1829
  • Waterston, C. D., Collections in Context: the Museum of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Inception of a National Museum for Scotland. Edinburgh: 1997, pp 47 & 193 
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