Photographs of Apparatus Collections
   At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was quite common for the professor of physics at a college to assemble the apparatus used for demonstrations and the new laboratory courses, and take a picture. Here are some examples that I have turned up in my travels.
   St. Mary's College for women in Notre Dame, Indiana, was founded in 1844. In this picture the statue of the Virgin Mary stands guard over a remarkably large set of apparatus. The collection was particularly strong in French optical apparatus, and had many pieces of Koenig acoustical apparatus, bought for the College by the Rev. Prof. J. A. Zahm of Notre Dame University. 

   On the left-hand side can be seen the tanks of an oxyacetelene-fueled projection system. A  Voss electrostatic machine can be seen in the center-rear, and in front is the vertical divided circle of a device used to study refraction and reflection. The right-hand cabinet is filled with optical apparatus 

   Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio dates from 1847. On the left-hand side is an electrostatic machine, and slightly to the right of it, on the floor, is a sonometer. In front of the right-hand door is a parabolic reflector for thermal radiation, and just to the right of it is a large lantern slide projector
   The University of Toronto was founded in 1827, and almost certainly had the typical lecture demonstrations by the Professor of Natural Philosophy. By the time this picture was taken the era of experimental work done by individual students had started. 

   On the nearest bench on the left are lenses and mirrors for experiments in optics. 

   The apparatus at the right was photographed at the United States Military Academy (1802) at West Point, New York about 1905. The big Pixii Atwood's Machine  at the right is now on display at the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution, but the large Convex Mirror on the floor on the left, and the  Mounted Lens on the right-hand side of the table are still at the Academy. 

   Various Helmholtz resonators sit on the floor in front of the table and in the middle of the table is an overhead projector.

   Prof. Robert Stawell Ball (1840-1913) published Experimental Mechanics, a Course of Lectures Delivered at the Royal College of Science for Ireland in 1871. To illustrate the ideas, he used a modular system of large-scale parts that could be fitted together in a number of ways. 

   This demonstration of pulley types was photographed at the United States Military Academy at West Point about 1905. Unfortunately, it has not survived. On the left-hand side can be seen a differential pulley system seen today in small automobile repair shops.

   Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, was founded in 1749. About 150 years later the apparatus in use at the start of the twentieth century was photographed. The laboratory room was in the attic that was heated by a potbelly stove. 

   On the right is a good example of a large  vacuum pump that resembles those sold in the 1850's by Chamberlain of Boston. To the left of the pump is a Wimshurst or other electrostatic machine. A tangent galvanometer sits on the table at the left. On the back wall are two portraits of physicists that are still on display at the University physics museum. 

   Washington and Lee University had a separate room for electrical experimentation. The tangent galvanometer visible in the picture above had been moved and can be seen at the right. Just to the left of it is the Kelvin current balance still in the possession of the department. A little more to the left is a differential galvanometer , easily recognized by the circular compensation bar across its top. An induction coil coil can be seen in the middle of the picture, and at the the left is Wiedemann's galvanometer, sitting on a brick pier to eliminate vibrations. In the foreground is a telescope and scale for reading the galvanometer.
   The instructor in the uniform of the Kenyon Military Academy, the preparatory school associated with Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio (founded in 1824), is making an 
X ray image of his hand on a sheet of film wrapped up in a sheet of paper opaque to visible light. The date is about 1905, and the picture was taken on the basement or first floor of the north end of Ascension Hall (1859). Kenyon still has the X ray tube in its collection. The high voltage of the tube is provided by the induction coil in the middle of the photograph.
   This picture was taken at Kenyon College in 1916. At the top left-hand corner can be see Young's wave addition device and a longitudinal wave machine, both still in regular use at Kenyon. Behind Young's machine is a Snell's wave machine, now lost. 

   The spectrometer at the right is still at use, as are the Koenig tuning forks on resonators in the upper righthand shelf of the cabinet. 

   Just to the right of the longitudinal wave machine can be seen the characteristic shape of an earth inductor

   The spectrometer appears again in this 1916 photograph of apparatus at Kenyon College. 

   On top of the cabinet is a sonometer that has been recently used in the Natural Philosophy course for non-science majors.

   Here is a different angle on the apparatus in the picture above. 

   Peeking very dimly out of the lower shelf of the cabinet on the left is the series of sectors, arranged in a circle on a glass plate, of a Knott  Wimshurst machine that is still in existence. On the bench at the right is a Hartl optical disk that has survived to the present day. 

  Grinnell College in Grinnell Iowa was founded in 1846. Between the two left-most windows can be seen a differential galvanometer (look for its curved compensating bar) and a tangent galvanometer (with its characteristic circular coil). 
These students at the physics department of Queens College, Galway, Ireland, are doing experiments with electrical measurements. 

   The institution was founded in 1845 as one of the three colleges of Queens University, and opened in 1849; it is now known as The National University of Ireland, Galway. 

   The design of the original university buildings is based on Christ Church College, Oxford. This laboratory was located just adjacent to the gate tower, a scaled down version of the well-known Tom Tower of Christ Church College. 

   This is the lecture room at the University of Mississippi about 1900. The tall ceilings remind us that the building was originally designed as a home for Natural Philosophy and as an observatory. 

   In the upper right-hand corner is an enclosure for the huge electrostatic machine  that E.S. Ritchie of Boston made for the second professor of natural philosophy, F.A.P. Barnard in the later 1850s. The glass disks were six feet in diameter.

   Some of the cast-iron chairs have been preserved in the University Museum in Oxford.

   The four pictures below of apparatus at the University of Texas were supplied by David Gavenda, Professor Emeritus of Physics, who was my host during a day-long visit to the Texas Physics Department in January 2003.
   Here we see students at the University of texas in the first years of the 20th century doing an experiment on heat. The hypsometers (water boilers) can be seen at each lab station, and the closest one actually has a plume of steam escaping from its top. The experiment is probably calorimetry. The network of thin pipes running across the room and down to the lab tables carry gas.

   This is Negative C10357 from the J.M. Kuehne Collection in the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

   On the near table I can see what appears to be  an optical bench, but the other apparatus is unclear.

   This is Negative C10358 from the J.M. Kuehne Collection in the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

   Here is the lecture bench at the University of Texas physics department in the early years of the 19th century. On the bench can be seen a scale, a pendulum support, a lens (note the slightly displaced image that it has produced) and a blank globe -- I cannot image what the lecture was about!

    This is Negative C10360 from the Prints and Photographs Collection in the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

   The University of Texas at Austin opened in 1890; here is the collection of apparatus in the early part of the 20th century. At the bottom of the picture on the left hand side can be seen a  Bennett electroscope that is no longer in the collection. On the shelf above it is a  dissectible condenser, also lost. However, at the back can be seen the Snell-Powell wave machine that is still in use in the department, 100 years later.

 This is Negative C10362 from the Prints and Photographs Collection in the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

 Return to Miscellaneous Home Page | Return to Home Page