Heritage and Culture

The Life and Work of Sir David Brewster

The Life and Work of Sir David Brewster
By Sophie

This week we celebrate the birthday and life of Sir David Brewster, who was a Scottish physicist, who created the kaleidoscope. He also invented the "lenticular stereoscope" which is an improved version of the stereoscope applied to photography, and was the first portable 3D viewing device.

Lenticulare Stereoscope invented by Sir David Brewster

Brewster was born in Roxburghshire on the 11th of December 1781. At the age of 12 he studied at the University of Edinburgh, with intentions of joining the clergy, however his interest in science prevented him from pursuing this career. As he finished his study and became qualified to preach, he instead turned to studying the diffraction of light. This study would see his life take change on a different path, his most important studies to note included polarization, metallic reflection, and light absorption.

After inventing the kaleidoscope in 1816, he went on to make improvements to the stereoscope by utilizing lenses to combine two dissimilar binocular pictures, producing a three-dimensional effect. It was Brewster's research on the construction of the lens of the eye which confirmed the existence of an ordered fibrous arrangement of its parts. Using simple apparatus, Brewster discovered many beautiful optical effects and succeeded in relating optical properties to crystal symmetry. His experiments were to lead to many benefits in the optical field which we in our day still enjoy, but take for granted, being ignorant of who it was who brought the knowledge of these discoveries to mankind.

During his time of study, he became principal of the United Colledge of St.Salvador and St Leonard of the Univerity of St.Andrews and in 1859 he became the principal of the University of Edinburgh.

Brewster contracted pneumonia at the age of 87. His life soon to pass, he simply stated, "I shall see Jesus and that will be grand. I shall see Him who made the worlds". On February 10, 1868, at Allerby, Melrose Brewster did just that.

What is the Kaleidoscope?

The kaleidoscope is an optical instrument that uses mirrors to produce ever changing symmetrical designs.

Common kaleidoscope designs resemble a small, hand-held telescope. Tube-shaped, with one end featuring an eye-piece, while the other end features a glass cylinder filled with pieces of coloured glass. In the centre of the tube are between two and three rectangular mirrors.

The mirrors cause the coloured glass to form numerous symmetrical patterns. When the tube is rotated, the shapes move and ever-changing patterns are formed.

At Scotweb, we love the kaleidoscope. Just as there are ever-changing colour patterns in a kaleidoscope, there are endless and unique tartan designs created everyday.

To make your very own tartan design, follow this link: https://www.scotweb.co.uk/tartandesign/