About the collection
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; 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 the early student laboratories, apparatus dating from the first decades of the new Wilder Laboratory (1899), and from the period 1920-1980. 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. In order to make this collection more accessible to students, the public and researchers, we have begun to place our records into this database. Our long-range goal is to have many of these items displayed in a permanent museum space.
The photograph on which our site graphic is based is one of several taken early in 1876 by town and College photographer H. O. Bly of the Natural Philoshpy apparatus in Reed Hall. They were displayed at the 1876 Phliadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Several instruments in this photograph are still in our collection: the induction coils, the shaped and coloured Geissler tubes, two electric eggs by Apps, N.B. Camberlain's 7 foot Aurora Tube, the Helmholtz coil, C.A. Young's spectrometer made by Alvan Clark & Sons, the Voltaic pile, Breguet's galvanometer, Phelps & Gurley's dip circle, the electrical apparatus of Daniel Davis, Jr., and the Elliot Brother's Thomson galvanometer.