Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Origin & History of Kaleidoscopes -- Part I

The word "kaleidoscope" is composed of three (3) Greek words -- "kalos", which means beautiful; "eidos", which means form; and "skopios", which means view. Thus, a "beautiful form view".

It appears that the concept of the affects of multiple reflecting surfaces may have been known to the ancient Greeks. However, no information or models survive to provide us with definite information.

"Legend claims that early Egyptians would place two or three slabs of highly polished limestone together at different angles and watch with fascination as mandalas were formed by human dancers." (Quoted from a History of Kaleidoscopes on the Brewster Kaleidoscope Society site)--CLICK HERE

The modern kaleidoscope was invented by a Scotch scientist and inventor, Sir David Brewster (1781-1868). Brewster was a child prodigy who entered the University of Edinburgh at the age of 12. Over a long and distinguished career he made numerous studies and discoveries in the field of optics and the physics of light.

Brewster invented the modern kaleidoscope about 1816 and had it patented it in 1817. It was met with much enthusiasm at the time and was seen as a scientific instrument with great potential. Brewster, however, derived little profit from it due to a fault with the patent registration.
 For copies of the patents themselves CLICK HERE

For further information on Brewster's life and pictures of at least one of his scopes CLICK HERE

In future posts, we will explore the evolution of kaleidoscopes in the mid-later 19th century and beyond.

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See my web site of kaleidoscopes and other work  CLICK HERE


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