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Paper Instruments in the History of Ottoman Astronomy

Gaye Danişan Polat from the Department of the History of Science, Istanbul University provides us with an overview of her research which has been funded by a grant from the SIS. Full details to follow in a subsequent issue of the Bulletin.

The importance of using paper instruments during the Ottoman period remains unexplained because there are few surving examples to help us understand their role in the history of Ottoman astronomy. To date there are still several important questions that need to be answered: When were paper instruments first used by Ottoman astronomers? Which style of paper instruments were used? Who used them? Were they widely used across the Ottoman world? Were the paper instruments used for education or actual calculations?

This study aims to clarify the purpose of using paper instruments in the Ottoman world by assessing the following surviving examples in the astronomical literature: the first example is a calendar with the title of Ruzname-i Şeyh Vefa (replicated by Ibrahim Shahidi ibn Khoudaï Dede in 1676, BnF supplément turc 537). It includes a paper instrument with two moving circles (volvelles) representing the positions of the Sun and Moon (folio 6). Composed of a series of concentric circles, this instrument enabled the user to perform caluclations relating to the age and phase of the Moon, lunar mansions and eclipses (both solar and lunar). The second example (Fig. 1, below) is also a calendar in the Kandilli Observatory (MS 540, copied A.H.1134/1721-22 A.D) made of cardboard by Derviş Mehmed el-Hasib el-Mevlevi (d.1709) who was a muwaqqit (timekeeper). There is a gurrename on the top right corner, and also circles & semicircles featuring the names of planets, zodiac signs, fixed stars, and information about the climates, zodiac, and winds. The third example (Fig. 2) is an Ottoman book on navigation entitled Navigasyon (1857) which features a serko haritası which is equivalent to a quartier de reduction (sinical quadrant) used among French mariners. We can assume that this printed paper instrument was used for pedogogical purposes since the Navigasyon was written for students at the Naval School (Mekteb-i Bahriye). Finally, there are also a few examples mounted on wood that can be to use as surviving instrument like cylindrical sundial, qıblanuma, quadrant. This project will contribe to our understanding of the use and role of paper instruments within the history of Ottoman astronomy.

Note: For more detailed infromation about serko haritası in the Ottoman Empire see Danışan Polat G., “Osmanlı Denizcileri ve Serko Haritası (Quartier de réduction),” Osmanlı Bilimi Araştırmaları/Studies in Ottoman Science, XVIII/1 (2016), pp. 1-25.

Research report: The Armsby respiration calorimeter

By Nicole Welk-Joerger (History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania)

The Armsby respiration calorimeter was the first of its kind in the world. Completed by 1902, and based on Wilbur Atwater’s human device, Henry Prentiss Armsby’s device was large enough to accommodate and calculate heat production in cattle. These calorimetric measurements not only helped determine the metabolism of these large food animals but determine the nutritive quality of the foods they ate. Through the first half of the 20th century, the device was converted to accommodate sheep, humans, and even used to measure the metabolism of microorganisms until its accession into a museum in the 1960s. With a generous travel grant from SIS, I was able to visit Pennsylvania State University’s (PSU) archives to research the device and visit the outside of the calorimeter building while the inside was undergoing repairs.

My visit proved that there is still much to learn about this device and its position in America’s nutrition science history. The archive holds over one-hundred detailed lab reports of experiments that were completed with the device. Many of these books contain loose sheets of paper outlining the tireless work scientists and their assistants spent on calculating not only heat, excrement, and emissions from cattle, but quality control of the device. The publications that resulted from these experiments were printed in English and German with worldwide circulation.  Scholars from around the world visited the device. And scientists that worked with Armsby and the Animal Nutrition Institute (the calorimeter its main feature) proved to be very involved in the early 20th-century political climate of the U.S.

Earlier this year while preparing the museum for repairs, staff found a treasure trove of new materials related to Armsby’s calorimeter and the Animal Nutrition Institute. They found a box of documents and photographs sitting within the calorimeter’s old, non-working freezer beneath a toppling pile of bulletin reprints. The items are currently being held at PSU’s Pasto Agricultural Museum until they can be properly processed with Special Collections. However, given my connections and the timing of my visit, I was able to get a sneak peak of the primary source material. They appear to highlight Armsby’s earlier publications with the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, his course materials as a professor at PSU, and photographs of the scientists who worked with the calorimeter after Armsby’s death in 1921.      

All images were used with permission from the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.

Archives consulted

  • “Science in Agriculture Vol. 23, No. 4, 1976,” Henry P. Armsby Article Reprints, 1892-1976. PSUA 75. Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.
  • ‘"Die nutzbare Energie des Timothyheues." Landwirtschaftliche Jahrbucher, 1904.’ Henry P. Armsby Article Reprints, 1892-1976. PSUA 75. Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.
  • “Calorimeter—Foreign Visitors,” Photographic vertical files, Physical Plant 1855-present. PSUA 1184. Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.
  • “Small photograph of Dr. Armsby,” William Frear papers, 1883-1922. PSUA 362. Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.
  • “Calorimeter Log Book,” Animal Nutrition Institute records, 1882-1960. PSUA 44. Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Penn State University Libraries.

From Pharmaceutical Innovation to Public Engagement: Stephen Carter and the Micrarium in Buxton

by Viviane Quirke

In 1981, a new kind of museum opened in Buxton’s old Pump Room. It was the ‘Micrarium’, created by Dr Stephen Carter, who had previously been involved in cancer research at ICI’s Pharmaceutical Research Centre in Cheshire. The Micrarium’s ambition was to make the microscopical world, which Carter had explored in his work for ICI, more readily accessible to the wider public. For this Carter developed a remote-controlled projection microscope and, with the help of his wife Janet and their three daughters, made 50 versions of it in their home workshop in time for the opening. After winning an award from the British Tourist Authority and receiving a Museum of the Year Award, the Micrarium became the first recipient of a grant from the Fund for the Development of Interactive Science Centres. It also received acclaim from professional microscopists, who praised both the clarity of the image and the depth of field obtained with the Micrarium’s microscopes.  However, Carter’s premature death in 1987, after which his widow Janet ran the Micrarium until she retired in 1995, and the eventual displacement of the apparatus used in the Micrarium by digital technology, led to the ultimate demise, not only of the Micrarium itself, but of its very idea as a museum.

Little is known about this short-lived ‘World First’ use of microscopes in a dedicated museum setting, which through the Carters bridged a gap between scientific innovation and public engagement.  Thanks to a generous grant from SIS, I was able to visit Janet Carter in Cheshire in order to interview her and other members of the family, examine the private collection of papers and other materials held by them, and go to Buxton to see the old Pump Room as well as visit the local library.

What this research revealed, was how Carter adapted the microscope and associated technologies to fit its change of purpose and location. Carter and his family also had to develop and mobilise both personal and professional networks, as well as acquire new skills, in a way that challenged the boundary between amateur and professional science. However, despite an apparently favourable social and cultural context, the Micrarium experienced difficulties as well as successes, at a time when public engagement was becoming big business, with multiple constituencies and expanding support, but also with growing competition for resources.