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probably made in London

Postcard of Kaleidoscope.
© National Museums Scotland


This type of polyangular kaleidoscope was designed by David Brewster (1781-1868) and patented by him in 1817. This example was made around 1820 by Robert Brettell Bate (1782-1847), a scientific instrument maker based in London.

The kaleidoscope consists of two coned tubes forming a barrel which can be turned around. It is engraved with the royal crest and 'DR BREWSTER'S PATENT/No 37' and is mounted on tripod stand.

In his optical researches, Brewster stumbled upon the principles of the kaleidoscope. He named it from the Greek: kalos, beautiful, eidos, form; skopein, to view.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-102-688-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1936.4
Date: Around 1820
c. 1820
Material: Brass. Inscription: Dr. Brewster's Patent with royal crest; No. 37
Dimensions: 11.00" H (on stand) x 5.38" L
What: Kaleidoscope, Bate's
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Light (Departmental Classification)
Who: Dr Brewster (Patentee)
R.B. Bate, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Bate's polyangular kaleidoscope, consisting of two coned tubes forming a barrel, mounted on a tripod stand, marked 'Dr. Brewster's Patent / No 37', by Robert Brettell Bate, London, c. 1820
  • For the context, see Morrison-Low, A.D. & Simpson, A.D.C., 'A New Dimension: A Context for Photography before 1860' in Stevenson, Sara Light from the dark room : A celebration of Scottish photography. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1995, pp 14 
  • For the kaleidoscope, see Morrison-Low, A.D., 'Brewster and Scientific Instruments' in Morrison-Low, A.D. & Christie, J.R.R. (eds). Martyr of Science: Sir David Brewster 1781-1868. Edinburgh: 1984, pp 58-65, 84-6 
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