Barometer (with cover), made by Lawrence Buchan

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made in Manchester

Postcard of Barometer (with cover), made by Lawrence Buchan.
© National Museums Scotland

Barometer (with cover), made by Lawrence Buchan

The domestic barometer tube had been made portable before the end of the 17th century, by making the cistern of a leather bag, which, when compressed by a screw, filled the glass tube with mercury and stopped the open end, after which the barometer could be safely moved. The travelling barometer, to be portable as a whole, had to be simple in shape, light yet robust. Barometric pressure varies with altitude, and so special instruments had to be devised to withstand the rigours of mountaineering or ballooning.

This photograph shows a domestic barometer with its protective cover, when it can be used (with care) as a walking-stick. The mountain barometer is signed: 'L. Buchan fecit 1835' on the ivory register plates. The instrument is a split wooden cylinder, with a leather cistern inside the wooden base. The scale is graduated from 19 inches to 31 inches, corresponding heights in feet being shown between 19 and 25 1/2 inches.

Lawrence Buchan (c. 1775-1859) came from Manchester, where he is known to have made mountain barometers for John Dalton (1766-1844), the Manchester scientist who formulated the atomic theory to explain chemical reactions.

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Online ID: 000-180-000-994-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: 1835
  • For Buchan, see Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 1 (1857-60), pp 146, 246. 
  • For Dalton's barometers by Buchan, see D.S.L. Cardwell (ed.) John Dalton and the progress of science. Manchester, 1968, pp 155-170. 
  • McConnell, Anita. Features of Portable, Travelling and Mountain Barometers. Antique Collecting 24 10 (March 1990), pp 5-9. 
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