Hydrometer (detail)

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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Hydrometer (detail).
© National Museums Scotland

Hydrometer (detail)

A hydrometer is used to measure the density of a liquid and thus its alcohol content for taxation purposes, at a given temperature. This is a detail of a 'static hydrometer' made around 1804, probably by John Miller and Alexander Adie, scientific instrument makers based in Edinburgh between 1804 and 1822.

The hydrometer's calibrated beam is signed 'Miller & Adie/ Edinr', and at the other end (not shown) 'No. 8'.

With the Government interest in regulating excise duty, a number of the new designs of hydrometer were produced at the end of the 18th century and start of the 19th century. This example by Miller and Adie was not successful in winning the government contract.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-002-205-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1925.57
Date: Around 1804
c. 1804
Dimensions: 11.50" x 2.75" x 2.88" deep
What: Hydrometer, portable / case
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Hydrostatics (Departmental Classification)
Who: Miller and Adie, 86 South Bridge, Edinburgh (Instrument maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Portable hydrometer for testing spirits permanently fixed in a case, made by Miller and Adie, 86 South Bridge, Edinburgh, c. 1804
  • 'Mr Adie's Statistical Hydrometer' in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia. vol 9, Edinburgh: 1830, p 400 and illustrated vol 21, plate 314 fig 5 
  • Clarke, T.N., Morrison-Low, A.D. & Simpson, A.D.C. Brass & glass scientific instrument making workshops in Scotland as illustrated by instruments from the Arthur Frank Collection at the Royal Museum of Scotland. Edinburgh: NMS, 1989. p 31 
  • For the introduction of the new Government-approved hydrometer, see Tate, Francis G.H. & Gabb, George H. Alcoholometry : An account of the British method of alcoholic strength determination with an historical introduction. London: 1930, pp 1-13 
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