Box (detail), for saccharometer

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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Box (detail), for saccharometer.
© National Museums Scotland

Box (detail), for saccharometer

This box contains an instrument, known as a saccharometer, used to ascertain the quantity of sugar in liquids, especially the fermenting sugar solution used in brewing known as worts. The saccharometer was made around 1810, probably by Alexander Allan (c. 1761-1839), a scientific instrument maker based in Edinburgh, and devised by Thomas Thomson (1773-1852).

The outside of the box is stamped 'IMPROVED SACCHAROMETER / ALLAN EDINBURGH MAKER./ No 1007'. Thomson, who was a chemistry writer and teacher, and from 1818 Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, devised his saccharometer in 1805 while investigating the relative quantities of malt which could be made from English and Scottish barley. The instrument was so much more accurate than others that it was exclusively used by the Scotch Excise Board between 1805 and 1816.

Legally adopted in 1816, this saccharometer was later rendered illegal by the adoption of R.B. Bate's instrument, used in conjunction with Sikes' Tables.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-190-002-213-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1975.152
Date: Around 1810
c. 1810
What: Saccharometer
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Hydrostatics (Departmental Classification)
Who: Alexander Allan (maker)
Thomas Thomson (inventor)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh (place of manufacture)
Description: Saccharometer by Alexander Allan of Edinburgh, c. 1810
  • For Allan, see D.J. Bryden, Scottish Scientific Instrument Making, Edinburgh, 1972, p.15 
  • For Thomas Thomson, see Jack Morrell, 'Thomas Thomson: Professor of Chemistry and University Reformer', British Journal for the History of Science 4 (1969), pp 245-265; and Morrell, 'The Chemist Breeders: The Research Schools of Liebig and Thomas Thomson' 
  • W.H. Roberts, The Scottish Ale-Brewer, Edinburgh, 1837, pp29-46; W. Black, A practical Treatise on Brewing, London, 1835, p 101 
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