Instruments from university laboratories of the 20th century

temporary exhibition open from 13th September 2012 until 26 November 2012



Different types of instruments accompanied the man from the dawn of civilization, the earliest ones, astronomical and geodetic, made in ancient times were used for practical purposes: for determining of time, holidays, seasons and for demarcation of land. Over time, actually since the seventeenth century, appeared devices to study Nature that could reach deep into the micro and macro - world. In the twentieth century, due to modern instruments, space flights as well as recognition of the smallest particles of matter became possible.

Over the centuries, research instruments, apart from their construction, also changed their form. The earliest were made of wood, bone, brass. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they often were silvered or gold-plated, and almost always exquisitely ornamented. The nineteenth century brought significant changes in equipment manufacturing. Aesthetic aspect has given way to increase accuracy and ease of use. In their construction modern construction materials began to dominate. Gradually, they were accompanied by recording and counting devices.

The main parts of equipment were integrated, the first half of the twentieth century started the era of closed instruments, the "black boxes". Tools for the study of nature in the twenty-first century are fully computerized, with simple forms and complex equipment operated by highly skilled professionals. From the point of view of the form, the twentieth century research tools are an intermediate stage between legible in shape, easily understandable structures of nineteenth century observing instruments and apparatus from twenty-first century, in which compact form does not allow to read its applications.

Some characteristic instrument types for the twentieth century are shown on this exhibition. These include microscopes, analogue meters, analytical instruments to study the composition or concentration of the substance. Presented twentieth-century instruments show the variety of forms and materials. In addition to heterogeneous scientific value, they also vary in design: from the bound in wood electric meters from the 1920s to the modern form of the electron microscope in the 1960s.

Jagiellonian University Museum has the largest collection of historic scientific instruments. Their importance to the heritage of science is considerable. They are important material evidence of development of science apart from the written sources documenting the development of scientific theories and ideas. Research instruments also illustrate technological progress. Often they first had modern design and material solutions, which later were introduced to everyday tools. Historical scientific instruments are also an important source of information about the level and development of precision equipment manufacturing during the centuries.

Ewa Wyka, PhD