The circle is an early example of an ellipsometer, used to study the reflection of light at or near Brewster's angle. The Frenchman, Jules Jamin, described it in an 1850 paper in the Annales de Chemie et de Physique. Jamin developed one of the first interferometers in 1856, and was well-known for his lavishly-illustrated, two-volume textbook.
The instrument at the left is in the Garland Collection of Classic Physics Apparatus at Vanderbilt University; on the right is an example from Washington and Lee University.
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