Gallery
Scientifica

Last update: 18 June 2017

The Scientifica Gallery displays objects and documents relating to fundamental sciences, natural sciences, and medicine. The fundamental science slides are solely dedicated to mathematics with most of our material coming from the Allan G. Bromley collection of mathematical tools, including an archive of his legacy on the Antikythera mechanism. The medica slides include some correspondence on human brain collecting and a collection of newspaper clippings on insanity. This gallery is still in construction.

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1. The A.G. Bromley Collection of calculators
Slide rules & other calculating tools
1970s-1990s

Three standard linear slide rules formerly from the Bromley collection. From top to bottom: by Albert Nestler (41 Z) with pouch, by Sun Hemmi (34RK), and by Relay (550).

See also: A.G. Bromley's legacy on Babbage's Engines (N/A) & the Antikythera mechanism

World authority on early computers & one of the most avid collectors of calculators

Allan George Bromley (1947-2002) was an Australian historian of computing at the University of Sydney who became a world authority on many aspects of early computing and was one of the most avid collectors of calculators [1-4]. The work on understanding Charles Babbage's calculating engines is Bromley's greatest legacy. His studies of the Antikythera mechanism, in collaboration with Michael T. Wright, led to the first working model of this ancient calculating mechanism. Dr. Allan Bromley started collecting mechanical calculators in 1979 [1]. A year later he already had sixty pieces. Eventually he was responsible for a collection of old computers which used to be displayed in the rear foyer of the building containing the University of Sydney Computer Science Department. At home, he had a large personal collection of mechanical calculators, slide rules, etc. He was a generous donor of artefacts to museums in Australia, especially the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and the Australian Computer Museum Society Inc. (source: Wikipedia). To be continued.

Figures (A.G. Bromley): [1] Slide rules | [2] Abacus | [3] Addiator | [4] Lightning Calculator

2. The Antikythera Mechanism
Original at the National Museum of Archaeology, Athens
Recovered from shipwreck in 1901

An early version of the Bromley-Percival Antikythera Mechanism model, made of red cardboard gears, with some photographs of the real model during construction.

The Mona Lisa of calculators: The oldest known calculating gear machine
A suite of documents from the Allan G. Bromley estate (1980s)

Figures (A.G. Bromley): Bromley (1986)'s research material | Bromley-Percival model construction

3. Collecting human brains
Various
19th & 20th centuries

1905 letter sent from Cairo by G. E. Smith to E. A. Spitzka, about the brain of E. Séguin. Smith worked on the British Museum brain catalogue before being appointed to Cairo.

Scientific collections of human remains: from skulls to brains

Description coming later

Figures: Smith, 1903 (Presentation copy: E.A. Spitzka) | Letter (G.E. Smith to E.A. Spitzka, 1903) | Letter (G.E. Smith to E.A. Spitzka, 1905)

4. The Spitzka newspaper clipping collection
New York City, USA
Late-19th to early 20th century

Newspaper clippings on insanity from the Spitzka collection, here the portraits of a girl mud-eater and two mothers who killed their children (early 1900s).

A collection of newspaper clippings about insane people & death by electric shocks

Edward Charles Spitzka (1852-1914), the father, was an eminent late-19th century alienist, neurologist, and anatomist. He was the author of the landmark psychiatric manual "Treatise on Insanity, Its Classification, Diagnosis and Treatment", published in 1883 [1] and was a co-founder of the American Anthropometric Society (AAS), an organisation devoted to collect and study the brains of notable individuals. Spitzka was the attending physician at the execution of W. Kemmler in New York's Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890, the first execution using the new electric chair. The second attending physician was Carlos F. MacDonald (1845-1926), alienist and the chairman of the New York State Commission in Lunacy from 1880 to 1896 [1]. He was involved in the design of the first electric chair and examined L. Czolgosz, pronouncing him sane enough to be executed in the electric chair after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Edward Anthony Spitzka (1876-1922), the son, was an anatomist who autopsied the brain of Czolgosz. He was widely recognized as one of the world's leading brain anatomists, who performed post-mortem examinations of the brains of many distinguished American men hold by the AAS (see Collecting human brains). He also examined the brains of criminals executed by electrocution to see how electrical current affected the tissue and for features to account for their criminal behaviour. He was additionally a proponent of death by electric shock [2]. The Spitzka collection of newspaper clippings highlights their general interest on cases of insanity [3] and on the effects of electrocution, including natural lightnings, live wire accidents and executions by electric chair (coming soon). Most clippings are dated, usually handwritten with the month in Roman character, otherwise stamped. It remains unclear who initiated the collection, the father or son.

Figures: [1] E.C. Spitzka, 1883 (C.F. MacDonald) | [2] E.A. Spitzka, 1908 (E.A. Spitzka) | [3] Newspaper clippings on insanity (E.C. Spitzka / E.A. Spitzka)

5. The earliest calculator collection/exhibit catalogues
Western Europe
From mid-19th century to the First World War

Catalogues of the calculating machines at the Science Museum of London, Baxandall (1926) and Pugh (1975), formerly from the A.G. Bromley library.

Collecting mathematical tools from the Scientific Revolution to Modern Mathematics

The 17th century, in the middle of the Scientific Revolution, marked the discovery of the logarithm (Napier, 1614), which simplified arithmetic calculations and led to the design of new calculating aids, such as Napier's bones and the slide rule. In parallel, mechanical calculators were invented such as the Pascaline (by Pascal, 1642), but the powerful logarithm function impeded the use and development of such complex calculating mechanisms by two centuries. The first major collections therefore date back to the 19th century during the era of Modern Mathematics, when a variety of mathematical devices had become available. The first recorded exhibit catalogue dates back to the 1876 London exhibition. von Dyck (1892-1893)'s catalogue is the earliest recorded exhibition catalogue limited to mathematical instruments and calculating devices [1]. von Dyck was also instrumental in the creation in Munich of the Deutsches Museum of Natural Science and Technology, the first of its kind [Origins of Cyberspace 287]. The Napier tercentenary celebration, marking the 300th anniversary of the publication of Napier's Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio, was held in Edinburgh from July 24 to July 27, 1914, just five days before the start of World War I [2]. The exhibition featured displays of many different types of calculating machines, as well as exhibits of other aids to calculation such as mathematical tables, the abacus and slide rules, planimeters and other integrating devices, and ruled papers and nomograms [Origins of Cyberspace 322]. With the Munich museum, the Science Museum of South Kensington formed the most complete collection of calculators. Its catalogue (Baxandall, 1926) [3] lists e.g. two machines built by the Earl of Stanhope and an original Morland calculator, all formerly owned by Charles Babbage. This catalogue remained the most useful and informative catalogue of early calculating instruments through the 1960s. An updated edition of the catalogue was issued in 1975 [Origins of Cyberspace 222] (Pugh, 1975) [3].

Figures: [1] von Dyck, 1892-1893 (K.G. Hagström) | [2] Horsburgh, 1914 (A.G. Bromley) | [3] Baxandall, 1926 (A.G. Bromley)