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SIS logoFor more on the Society, and details of how to join, see its website at

Scientific Instrument Society

The Scientific Instrument Society brings together a group of more than 450 people from some 20 countries and all continents. The Society aims to further knowledge and appreciation of scientific instruments of all types - their origins, development, manufacture and use from antiquity to the present day. Scientific instruments have been the essential tools for man's relentless search for knowledge of the earth and the universe over several thousand years. They are appreciated both for the light they cast on this search for knowledge and for the intrinsic beauty of so many of these artefacts. Members of the SIS are a varied group and one of the particular attractions and strengths of the Society is the way it draws together people whose interests are professionally based with those who are pure amateurs. Some members are academics from university departments and museums; some have commercial interests as dealers and auctioneers; whereas the largest group are amateurs. Together they have the most wide ranging instrumental interests conceivable. Astronomical, surveying and navigational instruments, sundials, microscopes and spectroscopes, physics, physiological, chemical and drawing instruments, pedometers and hygrometers and hydrometers, electrostatic machines and meters, as well as the elegant and often puzzling devices made purely for educational purposes, all figure in members interests.

The objectives of the SIS are furthered by the quarterly issue of its Journal (the Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society), by regular lectures, by the award of Research Grants, and by its increasingly important website. The Study Tours are very popular. These include each year a long weekend visit to a provincial centre where members can visit some of the less well known museums housing so much of our scientific heritage, and visits to major London museums. A very popular feature is the annual week long visit to a European mainland centre of historic scientific importance. Recent visits have included Holland, Florence, Dresden, St Petersburg and Copenhagen. It is on visits to museums that the benefits of the diverse membership become very obvious. The high level of curator membership means that participants are welcomed behind the scenes to see and handle precious items in a way that is not possible for the general public. But the benefits are not all one way because the wide ranging interests of members mean that there is often someone present who has specialised knowledge that proves very helpful to the host museum.

In this exhibition it is this breadth of interests which enables SIS members to put on display some of the particularly interesting items from their own collections put into the historic contexts of these instruments.

The idea of such an exhibition was conceived by Peter Delehar, a long term member of the SIS, and it has been brought to reality in collaboration with Dr Stephen Johnston of the Museum of the History of Science who is a committee member of the SIS. Our thanks are due both to those members who have offered their exhibits for display and to the MHS and its staff for making this undertaking possible.

Patrick Mill, Chair

For more on the Society, and details of how to join, see its website at