Barometer (detail), supplied by J.J. Hicks

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made in London

Postcard of Barometer (detail), supplied by J.J. Hicks.
© National Museums Scotland

Barometer (detail), supplied by J.J. Hicks

This photograph shows a close-up of the signature on a Fortin barometer made around 1900 in London. The signature reads 'J.J. HICKS LONDON'.

Irish-born James Joseph Hicks (1837-1916) was apprenticed to the London instrument maker Louis Casella, and by 1860 was his foreman. He began in business on his own account in 1862, specialising in philosophical glassware and meteorological apparatus. An astute businessman, who made full use of advertising, marketing and overseas contacts, his company eventually employed over 300 men in his London factories.

Jean Nicolas Fortin (1750-1831) devised the barometer which became standard for scientific purposes during the 19th century, and became known as the 'Fortin barometer'. In about 1800, he made the instrument more accurate by arranging a glass wall in the reservoir through which could be seen the mercury level and an ivory pointer. The tip of this was exactly the zero point of the inch (or millimetre) scale seen on the register plates at the top of the instrument, and the level could be compensated for temperature. It was also easy to transport.

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Online ID: 000-180-000-962-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  
Date: Around 1900
  • For J.J. Hicks, see McConnell, Anita. The Life and Times of J.J. Hicks (1837-1916) "King of the Clinicals". York, 1998. 
  • Middleton, W.E.K. The History of the Barometer. Baltimore, 1964, pp 195-260. 
  • Turner, G.L'E., Nineteenth Century Scientific Instruments. London, 1983, pp 234-5. 
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