SIS AGM: Saturday 27th July 2019


SIS members are warmly invited to join the committee at this year’s AGM, on Saturday 27th July, 2019. Events will take place in Greenwich, at the National Maritime Museum and the Trafalgar Tavern.

Attendance at the AGM is free for members. There is also a rich programme of visits and talks. The programme and sign-up form for these is available here. The AGM agenda can be found here.

Presentations will be from Marcus Cavalier and Huib Zuidervaart.

Map showing the Trafalgar Tavern


International Study Tour to Sweden, Sunday 19th to Friday 24th May 2019

Uppsala Botanic Garden, also known as the Linnaeus Garden

Uppsala Botanic Garden, also known as the Linnaeus Garden

Join us for what promises to be a stunning line-up of museum, garden and palace visits in Sweden.

Sunday 19 May

  • Welcome reception at a hotel (evening).

Monday 20 May

  • Morning: Nobel Prize Museum, Museum director Olov Amelin will tell us how you start a museum from scratch.

  • Afternoon: Royal Palace, Bernadotte Library (not open to the public, if the venue is not required for official duties of the Swedish Royal Family, and they take precedence).

Tuesday 21 May

  • Morning: Coach visit to the storage facility of the Nordiska Museet at Tumba; opportunity to see Jost Bürgi’s Armillary sphere. Return to Stockholm.

  • Afternoon: Stockholm Old Observatory; opportunity to see some of the remaining displays and historic weather station, in use since 1756.

Wednesday 22 May

  • Whole day excursion to Uppsala by coach.

  • Morning: University Museum – Gustavianum, visits to the Augsburg Art Cabinet, the temporary exhibit “Aspiring to precision”, anatomical theatre, archaeological collections. Opposite the museum is the cathedral where Linnaeus and Swedenborg are buried.

  • Afternoon: Uppsala Observatory and a visit to the Celsius house; Linnaeus Garden and the Linnaeus Museum, if time permits.

From the collections of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Center for History of Science.

From the collections of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Center for History of Science.

Thursday 23 May

  • Morning: A museum in Stockholm city centre; exact choice TBC

  • Afternoon: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Center for History of Science. Introductioon to the history of the Academy and visits to the Center’s storage of instruments, photographs, drawings, maps and archives, including Berzelius chemical collection and the Nobel archives, to mention a few gems.

  • Evening: Gala Dinner Klubbvilla at the Academy.

Friday 24 May

  • Excursion by bus coach to Skokloster Castle, a magnificent baroque castle between Stockholm and Uppsala. Besides the excellent library and armoury there is the unfinished hall. 

Click here to download the booking form, or…

Click below to book now (Paypal)

Study Tour to Edinburgh, Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd February 2019

Royal Observatory

Royal Observatory

Join us for a two-day visit to the Scottish capital to see new displays of science and technology, go behind-the-scenes in museum stores and visit the historic Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

Thursday 21 February 2019

  • Meet at 1.15pm for a three-course lunch at the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street

  • Curator-led tours of the new Science and Technology galleries

  • Transfer to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh to view the historic telescopes, handle meteorites and view rare astronomical books from the Crawford Collection

  • Transfer back to Chambers Street, returning 20.30 approx.


Surgeons' Hall Museum

Surgeons' Hall Museum

Friday 22 February 2019

  • Meet on Chambers Street at 09.30am to transfer to the NMS Collection Stores for tours and object handling session

  • Return to the city centre for lunch (own purchase)

  • Afternoon session at the Surgeons’ Hall Museums, Nicolson Street

  • Three-course dinner at a nearby Scottish restaurant at 19.00

The cost is £95 per person (£120 pp for non-members) which includes all meals (excluding drinks), visits and transfers outlined above.

Delegates are requested to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. The 08.00–12.18 train from London King’s Cross is a good option for those wishing to travel on the Thursday morning.

Click below to book now (Paypal)

For other payment options please contact the SIS.

International Study Tour: Sweden, Sunday 19 – Friday 24 May 2019

The old observation room, Stockholm Observatory

The old observation room, Stockholm Observatory

Join us for a week exploring the diverse scientific heritage of the Swedish capital and the nearby university city of Uppsala where we’ll see artefacts associated with the prestigious names of Carl Linnaeus, Anders Celsius and Alfred Nobel.

We will publish the final itinerary in the March Bulletin but it will most likely include visits to the following venues, where possible:

Stockholm – venues reached by local public transportation/walking:

  • Stockholm Old Observatory

  • Nordiska Museet

  • Vasa Ship Museum

  • Royal Palace of Stockholm

  • Nobel Museum

  • Maritime Museum

  • Museum of Technology

  • Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences

Uppsala – excursion by coach:

Uppsala Anatomical Theatre

Uppsala Anatomical Theatre

  • Uppsala Observatory

  • Museum Gustavianum (Uppsala university museum)

  • The Anatomical theatre and medical history museum

  • The Augsburg Art Cabinet, a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities containing approximately 1,000 different artefacts.

  • Uppsala university history museum containing lectures note from the first semester of the university in 1477 and exhibitions concerning Uppsala scientists such as Linnaeus, Celsius and Nils von Rosenstein.

  • Linnaeus Museum with the recreated Linnaeus Garden and his house

  • The University Medical History Museum

  • Skokloster Castle collections and library (tentative, to be confirmed)

Stockholm – excursion by coach:

  • Nordiska Museet Stores at Tumba (35 mins south of Stockholm)

The cost will be £430 per person (£480 for non-members) to include all entrance fees, tour guide fees, lunches (where possible), public transport costs, coach travel for excursions and the gala dinner.

Delegates are requested to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. We will start our visits from the underground station T-Centralen, on Vasagatan opposite Stockholm Central Station, with several hotels nearby to suit all budgets.

For more information and to sign up for the tour, please contact the SIS.

Public Lecture: Simon Schaffer, Friday 9 November 2018

Annual Gerard Turner Memorial Lecture

Inside the Madras Observatory; from the Madras Observatory Papers by John Goldingham, 1827.

Simon Schaffer, Professor of History of Science, University of Cambridge

Instruments and Ingenuity between India and Britain

Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BE
5.30pm Tea, coffee and biscuits
6pm Lecture starts
7pm Drinks and nibbles
7.45pm Event ends
Free and open to all
No need to register, just turn up on the day

Abstract: Some influential spokesmen for British rule in nineteenth century India referred to the apparent superiority of their sciences to justify their claims to control. This appeal gave the instruments of science a salient role in colonial power. In demonstration experiments, survey schemes and engineering programmes, the hardware of the sciences were used to attempt to bolster European authority. Yet this account of scientific instruments' use in nineteenth century south Asia often neglects maintenance and repair to which instruments were subject when their fragility and vagaries became obvious. Crucial, too, is the indispensable ingenuity of Indian practitioners on whose labour these instruments' careers systematically depended. This illustrated lecture offers fascinating stories of ingenuity, adaptation and crisis which centred on scientific tools and their remarkable fate.


Simon Schaffer is Professor of History of Science at the University of Cambridge. He has been editor of British Journal for the History of Science and Trustee of the Science Museum. In 2005 he was co-winner of the Erasmus prize. In 2013 he was awarded the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, in 2015 the Caird Medal of the National Maritime Museum, and in 2018 the Dan David Prize. His research concentrates on the history of natural philosophy and the physical sciences between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. In 2005–10 he led a collaborative AHRC research project on the history of the Board of Longitude and of the navigational and astronomical sciences.

2018 SIS Study Tour to Athens, Greece

2018 SIS Study Tour to Athens, Greece
13-18 May

Thiseio Observatory

Thiseio Observatory

Based in the Greek capital, delegates will have the opportunity to explore collections of historic scientific instruments at the following venues:

Sunday 13 May
Welcome Reception (evening)

Monday 14 May
Cycladic Art Museum
Museum of History of the University of Athens

Penteli Observatory

Penteli Observatory

Tuesday 15 May
Museum of the University of Athens, Zografou Campus
(Museums of Education, Zoology, Paleontology and Geology)
Penteli Observatory (Newall Telescope)

Wednesday 16 May
Full day excursion to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon and the ancient metalworking sites of Lavrio.

Thursday 17 May
Byzantine Museum
Maraslios Pedagogical School
Thiseio Observatory
Museum of Geoastrophysics
Gala dinner (evening)

The Antikythera Mechanism

The Antikythera Mechanism

Friday 18 May
National Archaeological Museum (Antikythera Mechanism)
Delegates are free to depart in the afternoon

Approximate cost: £450 per person to include all excursions, coach travel, lunches and the gala dinner. Delegates will need to arrange their own travel and accommodation.

For further information and to book a place please contact the SIS Executive Officer, Sarah Cavalier Delegates are requested to register by 23 March 2018 at the latest.

Visit to the Whipple Museum (Cambridge), 7th Feb

The Main Gallery of the Whipple Museum

The Main Gallery of the Whipple Museum

SIS members are invited to the Whipple Museum of the History of Science (Cambridge) on Wednesday February 7th, 2018, for an afternoon tour and object-handling session. Details are as follows:

  • (12.30pm: Museum open to visitors)
  • 2pm–3pm: Guided tour of the Whipple Museum’s new special exhibition, Astronomy & Empire, from the Curator of Modern Sciences, Joshua Nall
  • 3pm–4pm: Handling session led by Boris Jardine and Joshua Nall, giving SIS members the opportunity to examine some of the Museum’s special and curious objects
  • (4.30pm: Museum closes to visitors)

The Whipple Museum was founded in 1944 when Robert Stewart Whipple presented his collection of scientific instruments to the University of Cambridge. The Museum holds an internationally important collection of scientific instruments and models, dating from the Middle Ages to the present.

Members should make their own way there (see the map here), there will be no payment necessary, but donations to the museum from visiting members would be welcome on the day.  The address is: Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH. Website: 

Antique Scientific Instrument Fair


The SIS will be represented at the 61st Antique Scientific Instrument Fair. Details:

22nd October 2017
10am to 3.00pm      

Admission £5
Early entry (9.00am) £20

DoubleTree by Hilton
2 Bridge Place, Victoria
London SW1V 1QA

From the website:

The fair, the largest of its type in the world, is held twice a year in April and October. It attracts dealers and collectors from all over the world and presents an amazing display of antique instruments of science, medicine and technology. You will find microscopes, telescopes, maritime antiques, surveyor's instruments, globes, pharmaceutical and medical sets, electrostatic machines, magic lanterns, optical toys, corkscrews, clocks, compasses, architect's drawing sets, books, rules, orreries, calculating machines, early telegraph equipment . . . . . and all available for purchase from as little as a few pounds! In 2017 the fair moves into its 31st year and the October fair will be the 61st!!

Public lecture: Silke Ackermann, 20 November 2017

Fifth Turner Memorial Lecture of the Scientific Instrument Society

Dr Silke Ackermann, In the Service of Religion? ‘Science in the Islamic World’ in the Museum

5.30pm for 6.00pm on Monday 20th November 2017

King Harald V Room, The In & Out (Naval and Military) Club, No.4 St James’s Square, London SW1Y 4JU

The lecture is free and open to the general public, no booking is required, however as a Private Members Club a dress code is observed and you may be refused entry if this is not adhered to. The King Harald V room is at the top of the stairs on the left – there is a lift if required.

Dress code: Gentlemen: jacket and tie, Ladies: smart separates, dresses or business attire; No sports shoes or clothing.

Abstract: In the Museum ‘Islam’ or ‘Islamist’ are words that we read in the papers almost daily – frequently in a negative context, as unreflective labels for an amorphous group of people or ideas. ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamicate’ are labels that have been used to refer to objects – in an equally ill-defined way. The former is often used to refer to the origin of an object with a nebulous reference to religion, the latter was introduced in the 1970s to indicate a cultural rather than a religious context - whilst for most non-specialists an intended clarity frequently caused further confusion.

So what do we actually mean when we refer to ‘Islamic Science’ in our museum galleries? What do our audiences expect when we invite them to join us in exploring ‘scientific instruments from the Islamic World’? The Museum of the History of Science in Oxford has - largely unbeknown to most visitors - one of the finest such collections. How should we explain this topic and how should we display the objects? And is the use of 'science in the service of religion' an exclusively 'Islamic' notion?  The lecture will reflect on this multifaceted and frequently challenging subject then and now – and how we might move on from here.

Dr Silke Ackermann studied History, Languages and Cultures of the Orient, and History of Science at Frankfurt University (Germany). She worked for 16 years in a variety of curatorial and managerial roles at the British Museum before taking up the Directorship of the Oxford University Museum of the History of Science (MHS) following a two-year stint at a German University between these two roles. Silke has twice served on the Committee of the Scientific Instrument Society and has just stepped down as President of the Scientific Instrument Commission. With her team at the MHS she is about to launch 'Towards 2024', the vision for the 100th anniversary of the Museum.

The lecture will be followed by an optional bookable Buffet Reception from 7.00pm to 8.45pm at the cost of £32.50 per person. To attend, please complete this form below and return it with your payment by 1st November.

Astrolabe rete, by Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ Tatawī, 1666/7, Thatta (present day Pakistan), © The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, inv. no. 33474.


SIS Study Tour to South Wales, 10–15 September 2017

The Big Pit winding tower

The Big Pit winding tower

Staying in a hotel in central Cardiff, we will spend the week exploring the industrial, social and technical heritage of South Wales. Programme highlights include visits to the Royal Mint, Big Pit, the Department of Physics at the University of Cardiff, plus the opportunity to view items held in the reserve collections at museums in Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil.

Please contact the Executive Officer ( for more details. The deadline for applications is 7th July 2017.

Turner Memorial Lecture: 25th November

Celestial Globe, by Ja'far ibn 'Umar ibn Dawlatshah al-Kirmani, Persian, 1362/3; MHS inv. 44790

Celestial Globe, by Ja'far ibn 'Umar ibn Dawlatshah al-Kirmani, Persian, 1362/3; MHS inv. 44790

4th Gerard Turner Memorial Lecture

5.30 for 6pm, Friday 25th November 2016

Professor Emilie Savage-Smith, FBA
'Of Making Celestial Globes There Seems No End

Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE

The lecture is free and open to the general public, no booking is required.




Annual Conference Sicily 5th–9th September 2016

Provisional Programme

The Palatin Chapel (Palermo)

The Palatin Chapel (Palermo)

Sunday, 4 September

  • Arrival and evening welcome cocktail (Vecchio Borgo Hotel)

Monday 5 September

  • Museum of Engines and Mechanisms
    (wide collection of machines and mechanisms including steam engines, aircraft engines of the First and the Second World War, automotive engines, hydraulic machines, laboratory devices and didactic models dating from the end of 19th century)
  • Department of Chemistry
    (nice small collection of chemical instruments, including 19th century chemical balances used by Stanislao Cannizzaro)
  • Psychotechnical Collection
    (important instruments of psychology and psychiatry dating back to the 1940s)
  • Archeological Museum "A. Salinas"
    (nice collection of astrolabes and sundials, usually not on display)
  • Palermo Arsenal – Maritime Museum (with historical Navy collections)

Tuesday 6 September

  • Astronomical Observatory Museum
    (18th-19th century astronomical instruments, with the famous Ramsden Circle used by Giuseppe Piazzi)
  • Palatine Chapel and Royal Palace (with beautiful Normand architectures)
  • Palermo Cathedral (with the beautiful meridian line tracked by Piazzi in 1801) Biblioteca Comunale (City Library) (with beautiful globes, usually not on display)
  • St. Dominique Church (with a perpetual calendar usually not accessible to the public) Evening: Pizza in a Museum-restaurant in the outskirts of Palermo

Wednesday 7 September

  • Institute of Physics
    (19th-20th century beautiful collection, from old instruments belonging to Domenico Scinà, to those acquired by Pietro Blaserna, later founder of Via Panisperna Institute in Rome, to some others used by the Nobel Prize Emilio Segrè who discovered "technetium" in 1937 during his stay in Palermo)
  • Museum of Mineralogy (with beautiful collections of Sicilian minerals and rocks) Botanical Garden (one of the most important in Europe)
  • Geological Museum (with rare collections of fossils)

Thursday 8 September

  • Museum of Radiology
    (one of the 10 existing in the world, collecting instruments dating back to the 1950s)
  • Museum of Physiology (recently opened)
  • Zisa – Museum of Islamic Arts (with a zodiacal disk) Crypte of the Capucines (with mummies)
  • Formal conference Dinner near the sea, in the area of Sferracavallo-Mondello

Friday 9 September

  • Benedictines' Abbey of S. Martino delle Scale (with a beautiful astronomical clock and sundials)
  • Monreale Basilique (with beautiful mosaics)

Saturday 10 September

  • Trip to Etna (optional)
    Early start by Coach to Etna then by cable car up Etna to at least 2500 metres.
    This is going to be a long and strenuous day and may not be suitable for everyone.
    Proper walking shoes and waterproof clothing are essential, the temperature is likely to be much lower as you get higher up the volcano.
    The Etna trip can only go ahead if we get at least 10 people wanting to participate otherwise the cost of transport is likely to be excessive.

Additional Notes

  • During the week we will have a coach available whenever needed. Lunch will be provided each day
  • We have reserved rooms at two hotels in the heart of Palermo 4* Politeama Hotel
  • 3* Mediterraneo Hotel

SIS AGM: July 3rd, Cambridge

The front door of the Whipple Museum, Cambridge.

The front door of the Whipple Museum, Cambridge.

The 33rd Annual General Meeting of the Scientific Instrument Society will be held at:

Sunday July 3rd, 2016


The Whipple Museum of the History of Science
Free School Lane

All members of the Scientific Instrument Society are welcome. Please come to the front entrance of the Whipple Museum and call the curator Josh Nall on 07932123416.