Instrumental 2

Collections from science: Optical instruments

Using and analysing light. The second display in our ongoing series featuring scientific instruments from the Macleay Collections

Light brings us news of the Universe
William Henry Bragg, The Universe of Light, 1933

This display of scientific instruments from the Macleay Collections examines optics, the field of science that studies the nature and behaviour of light (visible electromagnetic radiation).

Optical instruments have traditionally used mirrors, prisms and lenses, and phenomena such as refraction, reflection, diffraction, interference, polarisation and scattering to analyse the world around us. 

Modern optical equipment adds innovations such as optical fibres, opto-electronic devices, and quantum optics to the tool kit. With the professionalisation of science in the 19th century, combined with precision instrument manufacture, the range of optical instruments expanded.

Header image: Surveyor's level, Ed Sprenger, Berlin, Germany, 1880–1920, Macleay Collections, SC2012.1