A toy for past, present and future generations

A kaleidoscope is a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, coloured objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other end creates a colourful pattern, due to the reflection off the mirrors. Coined in 1817 by Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster,[1] “kaleidoscope” is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”,[2] εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape”[3] and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”,[4] hence “observation of beautiful forms.” [5]

Kaleidoscope as a name for this tool comes from the Greek kalos meaning “beautiful” eidos meaning “image,” and skopeo meaning “I see.” So the English word “kaleidoscope”—whose principals were known to the ancient Greeks—is an appropriate name for describing the optical instrument that presents a variety of beautiful symmetrical images that unexpectedly change from one graceful form to another. Historical records show that the ancient Greeks were well aware this so-called “recently invented” technology. This adds support to the Bible’s claim that there is nothing new under the sun., but officially it was first patented as an optical instrument t in 1816. By a Scotsman a scientist s t / theologian named Sir David Brewster who was one of the pioneers behind the lighthouse lens, later patented by the French. Natural scientists know it as ‘reflective symmetry’. Their original intention was to inspire the brain with creative imagery. Artists would observe the formations of various objects and under a mirrored prism these art forms would form patterns within the mind, or ‘imagination’ that would convey magical and mesmerizing ‘images’. These inspired art formations could then be used creatively by architects in building construction, creating interesting forms, jewellers with more elaborate designs and mosaic art to highlight the beauty in/of nature. They soon became ‘the’ item to have in the 1930’s and became well known long before that as a “The Parlor Scope”. They have re-emerged once again as a mind focusing aid or too

Formal History of Sir David Brewster, the inventor of the kaleidoscope

Sir David Brewster KH PRSE FRS FSA(Scot) FSSA MICE

(11 December 1781 – 10 February 1868) was a Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, writer, historian of science and university principal.

Most noted for his contributions to the field of optics, he studied the double refraction by compression and discovered the photoelastic effect,[2] which gave birth to the field of optical mineralogy.[3] For his work, William Whewell dubbed him the “Father of modern experimental optics” and “the Johannes Kepler of Optics.”[4]

He is well-recognized for being the inventor of the kaleidoscope and an improved version of the stereoscope applied to photography.[5] He called it the “lenticular stereoscope”, which was the first portable, 3D viewing device.[6] He also invented the binocular camera,[7][8] two types of polarimeters,[9] the polyzonal lens and the lighthouse illuminator.[10]

A prominent figure in the popularization of science,[11] he is considered one of the founders of the British Association,[12][13] of which he would be elected President in 1849. In addition, he was the editor of the 18-volume Edinburgh Encyclopædia.

Among the non-scientific public, his fame spread more effectually by his invention in about 1815 of the kaleidoscope, for which there was a great demand in both the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.[14] As a reflection of this fame, Brewster portrait was later printed in some cigar boxes. Brewster chose renowned achromatic lens developer Philip Carpenter as the sole manufacturer of the kaleidoscope in 1817. Although Brewster patented the kaleidoscope in 1817 (GB 4136),[15][16] a copy of the prototype was shown to London opticians and copied before the patent was granted. As a consequence, the kaleidoscope became produced in large numbers, but yielded no direct financial benefits to Brewster.[17][18][19] It proved to be a massive success with two hundred thousand kaleidoscopes sold in London and Paris in just three months.[20]

The Brewster stereoscope, 1849.

An instrument of more significance, the stereoscope, which – though of much later date (1849) – along with the kaleidoscope did more than anything else to popularise his name, was not as has often been asserted the invention of Brewster.

A much more valuable and practical result of Brewster’s optical researches was the improvement of the British lighthouse system. Although Fresnel, who had also the satisfaction of being the first to put it into operation, perfected the dioptric apparatus independently, Brewster was active earlier in the field than Fresnel, describing the dioptric apparatus in 1812. Brewster pressed its adoption on those in authority at least as early as 1820, two years before Fresnel suggested it, and it was finally introduced into lighthouses mainly through Brewster’s persistent efforts.[14]


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