Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Cambridge Scientific Instrument Co

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August 1899.
September 1909.
January 1911.
August 1912.
April 1913.
WW1 Permeameter for measuring the permeability of airship materials, on display at Cambridge Museum of Technology. See next photo for description
WW1 Permeameter description

Exhibit at the Bakelite Museum.
1942. Potentiometric titration outfit.
1942. Extrusion Speed Indicator.
1957 Cotton Sorter on display at Cambridge Museum of Technology
Scanning electron microscope, ex Pilkington's R&D laboratory, on display at Cambridge Museum of Technology

Makers of scientific instruments; of Cambridge.

When Cambridge University established the Science Tripos, there were no facilities for making apparatus in Cambridge. To meet their requirements for apparatus, the research and teaching staff had to make their own.

1878 The workshop of Cambridge University's Department of Mechanism began to make the apparatus needed for the Science Tripos.

A mechanic, Robert Fulcher, left the workshop to set up his own scientific instrument making business. Horace Darwin, the youngest surviving son of Charles Darwin, took an interest in the firm.

1880 William T. Pye joined as foreman.

1881 Darwin purchased the business in partnership with his friend Albert George Dew-Smith. Cambridge Scientific Instrument Co was established to manufacture scientific instruments. Dew-Smith was an engineer and instrument maker who had been at Trinity College, Cambridge with Darwin.

1884/85 The rocking microtome was one of Darwin's most successful designs which continued to be manufactured until the 1970s.

1895 Public company formed.

1895 The partnership became a Limited Liability Company.

Darwin decided to develop instruments for use in industry. He acquired sole manufacturing rights for the Callendar resistance thermometer, which became the company's first successful industrial instrument.

1898 The Callendar recorder was launched.

1898 Robert Stewart Whipple was appointed personal assistant to Horace Darwin, and later became Managing Director and Chairman of the company. He amassed a unique collection of antique scientific instruments that he later donated to found the Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

George Whipple who worked at Muswell Hill became Managing Director of E. R. Watts and Son.

1898 William T. Pye left to form the W. G. Pye Instrument Co with his son, which ultimately became the Pye group of companies.

1900 Catalogue issued of mechanical laboratory apparatus designed by Professor Ewing. [1]

Charles Foster, a chief draughtsman, left to form the Foster Instrument Co.

1910 Exhibited CO2 recorder suitable for use at high temperatures, at the Physical Society's Exhibition[2]

1920 Cambridge Scientific Instruments took over the R. W. Paul Instrument Co, of London, and became the Cambridge and Paul Instrument Co Ltd.

See also 'The Scientific - The Story of the Cambridge Scientific Company' by Donald J. Unwin[3]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer of 16th November 1900 p507
  2. The Times, Dec 12, 1910
  3. 'The Scientific - The Story of the Cambridge Scientific Company' by Donald J. Unwin, published by the Cambridge Indistrial Archaeology Society and the Museum of Technology, 2001 & 2002, 72 pages
  • Cambridge Museum of Technology [1]