The School of Physics Museum

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Galvanometer, Cambridge, Uni-pivot

Open dial uni-pivot galvanometer with front glass window.

Country of manufacture: United Kingdom


Planimeter with case and key

Planimeter consisting of brass disc and measuring instrument made of white disc and attached bar. To measure area up to about the size of one A4 page. The instrument is stored in a black hinged box with purple velvet lining and small metal catches. Instruments instructions are attached to a label on the inside of the case. A small key is attached to the case lid by string. (23.1 = box, 23.2 = brass disc, 23.3 = planimeter)

Country of manufacture: Switzerland


Potentiometer type D-73-E J.L. William (with lid)

Student Potentiometer (Type D-73-E) set in wooden box with lid. Black control panel with various dials:two for VOLTS & MILLI-VOLTS; others for galvanometer sensitivity, battery rheostats, etc. 24.1 = potentiometer 24.2 = lid

Country of manufacture: Australia


Lamp, Standard Pentane

Vernon Harcourt’s Standard Pentane Lamp, consisting of the following components: 27.1: Wooden hinged box with key 27.2: Glass Pentane lamp 27.3: Metal clamp attachment 27.4: Empty glass bottle 27.5: Glass bottle stopper 27.6: 1.5 CP weight 27.7: 1 CP weight 27.8: Small metal bullet 27.9: Instruction sheet Miscellaneous: 2 screws to be reattached to lamp green small piece of glass small flat rectangular piece of metal cotton wool

Country of manufacture: United Kingdom


Harmonic Analyser, The Stanley#3

Stanley Harmonic Analyser

Fourier’s Theorem states that any periodic waveform can be constructed from a series of sine waves of appropriate amplitudes, frequency multiples and phases. A harmonic analyser determines these components.

The Stanley harmonic analyser was manufactured in the United Kingdom by W.F. Stanley & Co. Ltd of New Eltham, London. It was designed to analyse ‘complex wave forms by the simple action of tracing a curve, which may be of any length within the range of the instrument’i . The harmonic analyser was used in a variety of fields such as mechanical and electrical engineering, geophysics and meteorologyii . The instrument itself is made of metal enamel, steel, perspex, wood and paper.

In use a complex waveform is traced using a stylus and the amount of rotations of various sized toothed wheels allow the determination of the individual Fourier components.

Jacqueline Eager

Student Projects Placement, Cultural Collections 2005

i Kirkby, S., The Stanley Harmonic Analyser, W.F. Stanley & Co. Limited, London, p.4.

ii Kirkby, S., ibid., p.4.

Country of manufacture: United Kingdom


Beam Balance, with wooden box

Beam balance made of brass, stainless steel with “ tortoise shell pattern” decoration. Enclosed in display case with glass windows and sitting on four legs for levelling. Made by F. Sartorius, Gottingen.

Country of manufacture: Germany


Clock, Cooke Astronomical with case

Cooke Clock

Accurate timepieces are today taken for granted. In an experimental environment they are absolutely essential. The Cooke clock provided the most accurate timekeeping available at the time to the department of Natural Philosophy. The clock itself was modified to allow regular time intervals to be electrically recorded.

It is unclear when the Cooke clock was purchased however clues to its arrival date at the School of Physics do exist. The clock is engraved with the words ‘T. Cooke and Sons, York, England’. As the company that manufactured the clock changed its name several times, the name of ‘T. Cooke and Sons’ narrows the manufacturing date down to a window of the years 1869 to 1897.

Thomas Cooke (1807-1868) was the son of a shoemaker. Although he had been prepared for a life as a sailor Cooke began his career an assistant schoolmaster in York. He soon became interested in making telescopes and began to receive commissions for his work. In 1836 Cooke established a business and at first primarily dealt with photographic lenses, astro-photographic cameras and telescopes. In 1870 the company constructed what was the largest telescope of the day. This particular telescope was commissioned by the University of Cambridge, one of Cooke’s many distinguished clients. Cooke was a multitalented man having become an optician and exhibiting excellent mechanical skill. He is remembered for having pioneered the development of refractor telescopes in Britain, an item that previously had only been imported due to a glass tax. In an obituary published in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Cooke was described as having a ‘foremost place among that long line of eminent opticians who have contributed in no small degree to sustain the high reputation of England for practical science’i . After his death the company was handed down to his two sons, Thomas and Frederickii . Like their father, Thomas and Frederick were successful businessmen and expanded the company to include offices in London and Cape Town.

Until 1922 the company was known as either T. Cook & Sons or T. Cooke & Sons Limited. This changed in 1922 when the company merged with two others, Troughton and Simms. Both of these had been involved in constructing ‘instruments for position work, such as large theodolites and transit instruments’iii.

The Cooke clock is thought to have been ‘specially built to the specifications of Professor T.H. Laby for use as a master clock in the laboratories of the School of Natural Philosophyiv ’. It was probably kept in Laby’s office and used by him in the ‘experimental determination of ‘J’- the mechanical equivalent of heat’v . The clock was considered to be accurate for the period in which it was built, being precise to +/- 1 second per day. In the early 1980’s the clock was restored to working order and placed in the reception area of the School of Physics. It has been treasured for both its scientific interest and its evident aesthetic value.

Jacqueline Eager
Student Projects Placement, Cultural Collections 2005

i'Report of the Council', Journal of the Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 29, p. 130.

ii Wikipedia, 'Thomas Cooke', www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Cooke, accessed 09.10.2005.

iii'Astronomical Instrument Manufacturers' ,op cit, p.363

ivMuirhead, E.G., Letter to the General Manager Astronomical Division Sir Howard Grubb & Parsons Co. Ltd, 13th April 1983, p.1.

vCherry, R.O.C., Note on T. Cooke & Sons Clock, 15thJuly 1980, p.1.

History of object: Used by Prof. Laby probably in experimental determination of “J” the mechanical equivalent of heat. Also as master clock in master-slave system of clocks in Old Physics Bldg.

Country of manufacture: England


Diapason normal Tuning Forks. Set of 13 in wooden case.

In the early 1900s there was intense debate in Melbourne about the adoption of a standard pitch for orchestral use. At the time Australian orchestras were using one of four pitches based on both overseas and local constraints. Dame Nellie Melba was at the forefront of the debate. In an attempt to influence the direction of this debate she purchased and presented to the local Marshall-Hall orchestra a set of normal pitch or Diapason normal woodwind and brass instruments. In September 1906 the Victorian Minister of Education Mr Sanchse orderd a set of normal pitch tuning forks for the University. The tuning forks arrived in early 1908 and were placed in the hands of Professor Lyle in the Physics Laboratory. The forks are tuned to a1 =435 or Diapason normal also called low pitch or French pitchi. Note: It was not till 1953 that a1=440 was adopted as a standard by the ISO.

iThe Melba Gift Issues of Pitch in Melbourne in the early Twetieth Century. Simon Andrew Purtell Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Music University of Melbourne 2006


Invar length substandards, two with box

Two rectangular invar blocks, each 3 in. x 1-3/8 in.in hinged cardboard box. Block: 56.1 has a 5 cm length marked in millimetres on a highly polished surface. and 56.2. ditto with a 2 inch length graduated in 20ths (for 1 in.) and 100ths (for 1 in.) Box: 56.3. Almost certainly two Grayson rulings. See also Cat. nos 64, 65


Length Standards, NPL Certified, Archives

Certificate of Examination for #64 of one 6 inch glass scale, one 6 inch steel scale, and one 6 inch end gauge for Professor Lyle. 3 page document (copy) from National Physical Laboratory, Teddington. Paper held together with pin. (See also #63)

History of object: As for title. Dated Nov 24th, 1915.

Country of manufacture: England


Length Standards, Washington Certified, Archives

U.S. Bureau of Standards Certificates for #65 for 6 inch steel scale, 6 inch steel end measuring rod, 6 inch glass scale. Three Department of Commerce Bureau of Standards certificates submitted by Professor Lyle for scales made by H.J. Grayson. Held together by paper clip. (See also #62)

Country of manufacture: U.S.A.


Length Standards, 3 six inch

(1) Glass rectangular scale (1-(1)-6 inch); (2)ditto steel rectangular scale, (3) ditto metal cylindrical rod. Enclosed in black hinged box with purple velvet lining. 64.1 = steel scale, 64.2 = glass scale, 64.3=steel rod, 64.4 = box. See#62 “National Physical Laboratory Certified Standards”


Length Standards, 3 six inch

(1) Glass rectangular scale (1-(1)-6 inch); (2)ditto steel rectangular scale, (3) ditto metal cylindrical rod. Enclosed in black hinged box with purple velvet lining. 65.1 = steel scale, 65.2 = glass scale, 65.3=steel rod, 65.4 = box. See #63 “Washington Certified Standards.


Standard 100g Weight in box with lid

100 gram standard calibrated platinum cylindrical weight NPL No A’39 / 60549. Stored in varnished wooden cylindrical box with black lining and screw on lid. (certificate not located) 97.1 = box 97.2 = lid of box 97.3 = weight

Country of manufacture: England


Clockwork Chart Recorder

No. of pieces: 2 (with removable parts) Assembled, soldered/welded. Metal: plated. Wood: varnished. Accessories: key. Surface finish: coated.


Wheatstone Bridge Leeds & Northrup Co.

Machined metal sides and interior, machined plastic top with plastic dials, handmade wood base with dovetail joins and mitred corners. Perforated machined metal surface spray painted, machined plastic surface coating, wood base most likely hand varnished. Surface finish: metal sides painted matt blue, plastic top brownish red coating with smooth matt finish, wood base varnished.

Country of manufacture: U.S.A.


Resistance Bridge Gambree Bros & Co./ London

No. of pieces: 12 Mold, cut, screw, plated, polish. Accessories: 11 detachable screw knobs. Surface finish: varnish, electroplated.

Country of manufacture: U.K.


Resistance Bridge Hartmann & Braun

Machined metal parts, polymer base, wooden box plinth. Uncoated metal, polished wood. Surface finish: wood varnish.

Country of manufacture: Germany


Laboratory Standard Condenser 0.3 µF Dubilier

Wooden cube with 8 metal screws visible on the upper and lower faces, securing sides together. The upper face of the cube is plastic. Metal apparatus, possibly brass, fixed to the upper face, All of the faces of the wooden cube, apart from the upper plastic face, have been sanded smooth and on all faces but the lower face, a finish has been applied.


Universal Shunt W.G. Pye & Co.

Machined, sanded and attached with screws. Polished. Surface finish: lacquer

Country of manufacture: U.K.


Resistance Bridge Elliott Bros

No. of pieces: 2. Mould cast and machine made. Plastic coated, lacquered wood (body). Copper alloy and plastic coated key. Surface finish: lacquered.

Country of manufacture: U.K.


Capacitor Bridge H.W. Sullivan

Wood cut and dove tailed, screwed and adhered; plastic moulded, screwed and adhered. Metals cast, forged, machine cut, screwed and adhered. Wood coated (painted varnish).

History of object: The “Part III” label indicates it was used in the third year undergraduate labs.

Country of manufacture: U.K.


Resistance Ratio Bridge, J.L. William

No image
available

Machine-made/cut, appears to be lathe turned. Electroplated, no apparent decorative elements. 14 rotatable, removable nuts. Surface finish: Brushed metal.

Country of manufacture: Australia


Fluxmeter Cambridge

Body cast in mould. Possibly dipped in coating. Surface finish: Black coloured evenly applied coating.

Country of manufacture: U.K.


Standard Capacitor Nalder Bros & Co.

No. of pieces: one object recessed into wooden box with detachable parts. Handmade wooden box enclosing a machine molded solid metal object. Plastic machine molded attachment. Gold electroplated metal, wax-matte hand polished wooden box, plastic has either been polished or had a varnish polish added to the surface. Detachable brass elliptical stopper, two brass butterfly screws, two hook latches attached to outside of box to secure object for transport. Polished wood surface, possibly wax coated. Brass metal coated with gold patina/electroplating. Plastic component either polished or coated with gloss varnish.

Country of manufacture: U.K.


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Created: 12 May 2003
Authorised by: Head, School of Physics
Maintained by: Museum Curator (pslyons @ unimelb.edu.au)