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probably made in Vienna

Postcard of Thermometer.
© National Museums Scotland


By uniting two or more metals into a compound strip, which changes curvature as the temperature changes, the design of metallic thermometers was greatly simplified, allowing them to become both more compact and more sensitive. Those in the shape of pocket watches, such as this example from around 1775 and signed by Johann Holtzmann of Vienna, were probably never intended to be anything other than a rich man's toy.

The glass-covered case protects the working movement of a bimetallic strip which moves the pointer across the enamelled dial, which has the central portion removed so that the simplicity of the works can be seen. The dial is marked with two scales, Reaumur and Fahrenheit, and the hand indicates both at once. The watch 'handle' is decorative.

Clockmakers produced barometers, often as a sideline, as their wealthy clients were interested in expensive items which might have a novelty appeal, such as this early piece of miniaturisation.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-183-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  T.1975.154
Date: Around 1775
What: Thermometer, pocket
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Heat (Departmental Classification)
Who: J. Holtzmann, Vienna (Maker)
Where: Austria, Vienna
Description: Pocket thermometer by J. Holtzmann of Vienna
  • For bimetallic thermometers, see W.E.K. Middleton, A History of the Thermometer and its use in Meteorology (Baltimore, 1966), pp 169-72 
  • For Johann Holzmann, see G.H. Baillie, C. Ilbert and C. Clutton (eds.), Britten's Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers 9th edition (London, 1982), p 488 
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