Marvin Bolt, the Museum’s curator of science and technology, traveled to Europe last fall to research some of the world’s oldest telescopes. Read along to hear about his adventures and discoveries.
A final day at the Louwman Museum provided access to two of its most important items. One is one of the earliest lenses made by famed Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, inventor of the pendulum clock and maker of very high quality telescopes, and the only one in a private collection.
As did many opticians of his day, Huygens signed his lenses with a diamond-tipped stylus, making it very easy for us to date this lens to 1656.
Huygens lens in its protective case
In his youth, Huygens met René Descartes, who was a friend of his father. Descartes had figured out that a non-spherical lens would improve the telescope, but no one could figure out how to make such a lens. As we investigated the Huygens lens, careful measurements showed that it was not spherical but had consistent differences from the shape of a sphere. This is surprising, and suggests that we will need to examine Huygens lenses in more detail.
The other object, not previously studied in great detail, has circumstantial evidence linking it to the first decades after the telescope first appeared in 1608.
An early telescope by Jacques Bourgeois (I.B.).
Detail of an early telescope by Jacques Bourgeois (I.B.).
This telescope is signed “I.B.”, likely Jacques Bourgeois, who published a booklet on telescopes in 1645. As archive scholar Huib Zuidervaart has discovered, Bourgeois signed his booklet with the signature ‘I.B.’
Our study showed the telescope has a very good objective lens and gives an excellent image. Surprisingly good. It makes us rethink our assumptions about the quality of early lenses, and gives us much to think about as we prepare to look at the world’s oldest lenses in the days ahead.
In 2014, the Rakow Library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop an innovative methodology for preserving, digitizing, and making accessible our collection of Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) stained glass cartoons. The Whitefriars Collection was gifted to the Rakow Library in 2008 by the Museum of London. The collection consists of 1,800 rolls of cartoons, or working drawings: an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 works on paper. Last year, the Rakow completed the first year of a five-year Discovering the Whitefriars Collection project, conserving and digitizing 15 rolls, for a total of 120 cartoons. Read more →
Summer is … walks outside, swimming pools, picnics, warm days, and The Corning Museum of Glass. Yes, The Corning Museum of Glass is a great place to add to your list of summer plans. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons to visit the Museum this summer:
10: Longer days mean there’s more natural daylight flooding the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries. The natural lighting brings out the best in the glass on display. Read more →
One of the interactive elements of CMoG’s exhibition Revealing
the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope allows
visitors to be microscopic.
If you’ve visited the Rakow Research Library recently, you may have seen one of our new exhibitions, Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope, and experienced the Be Microscopic interactive that “shrinks” visitors down to the size of a cell.
The Museum’s Digital Media team created this immersive interactive experience using a Microsoft Kinect camera for Windows, technology with which many video-gamers may be familiar. The camera captures live video and tracks users’ spatial positions, body movements, and gestures. The project called for a complex combination of interactions, “green-screen” effects, and other display needs, so it required some trial and error to determine the best way to create the program. The team settled on using a software library for Kinect called Vitruvius. This C#-based library provides methods that make it easier to access the camera’s body tracking data, and to use that data to trigger on-screen actions like changing specimen images and taking snapshots of visitors in this microscopic world. Read more →