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Postcard of Thermometer.
© National Museums Scotland


This thermometer is graduated to show the Great Pyramid Temperature Scale. The instrument dates from around 1870 and is unsigned.

This mercury-in-glass thermometer does not, in fact, register the scale shown of 'degrees Pyramid', and was probably devised by Charles Piazzi Smyth from actual measurements taken by him in 1865 on his visit to Egypt. It may have been designed by him on his return as a piece of lecture demonstration apparatus.

The Great Pyramid temperature scale was worked out by Charles Piazzi Smyth. On the scale, the mean temperature of the King's Chamber in the centre of the pyramid was 50 degrees, water froze at 0 degrees, and platinum melted at 5000 degrees - well beyond the range of mercury thermometers.

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Online ID: 000-190-004-747-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1986.L.2.30
Date: Around 1870
c. 1870
Material: Inscription: Great Pyramid Scale of Temperature
What: Thermometer, pyramid scale
Who: C.P. Smyth (Maker)
Description: Mounted thermometer, graduated with the 'Great Pyramid Scale of Temperature', by C.P. Smyth, c. 1870
  • C. Piazzi Smyth, Life and Work at the Great Pyramid, 3 vols., Edinburgh, 1867. 
  • C. Piazzi Smyth, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid, 4th edition London, 1880, esp. ch. 14, 'Linear and surface measure', pp 290-304. 
  • H.A. Bruck and M.T. Bruck, The Peripatetic Astronomer: the Life of Charles Piazzi Smyth. Bristol, Adam Hilger, 1988, esp. chs. 6 and 7, pp 95-134. 
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