Scientific Instruments

The scientific instruments collection documents the development of American academic science from the early days of the Republic through the Cold War, from astronomical instruments and surveying chains to optics apparatus and early student laboratory equipment.

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The Dartmouth Collection of Scientific Instruments dates from the founding of the College in 1769. It mirrors the development of American science in an academic setting, from the early days of the Republic through the Cold War.

There are surveying chains, orreries, telescopes, and globes from the first years of the College; American and European apparatus from the early nineteenth century; apparatus from the purchasing trips of Dartmouth professors throughout the nineteenth century; and the astronomical instruments of the Shattuck observatory (built in 1854) and of Charles Young (1843–1908), who became a pioneer in the study of the solar spectrum. The collection is particularly strong in optics, instruments from early student laboratories, apparatus dating from the first decades of the new Wilder Laboratory (1899), and apparatus from the period 1920–80. The artifacts are accompanied by a large number of pamphlets, purchase receipts, lab notes, original boxes, correspondence, and catalogues.

Our collection is largely due to the effort of Professor Emeritus Allen King, who joined the faculty in 1942 and took an active interest in preserving and documenting Dartmouth’s scientific heritage.

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