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Lighthouse lens in the Grand Gallery

Dr Alison Morrison-Low

Dr Alison Morrison-Low
Dr Alison Morrison-Low
Research Associate
Specific responsibility: Research for science collections.
Research interest/expertise: History of Science collections.

Alison Morrison-Low is a Research Associate.

After a first degree in English history at the University of East Anglia (B.A.), and a further qualification in Museum Studies at Leicester University (M.Sc.), Alison was able to undertake a part time doctorate at the University of York with the assistance of National Museums Scotland (D.Phil.). She joined the museum in 1980, with responsibility for the history of science and history of photography collections. She has produced collaborative works on the historic scientific instrument trade in Scotland and Ireland, and her doctoral thesis, Making Scientific Instruments in the Industrial Revolution was published by Ashgate in 2007. This won the Paul Bunge prize for 2008, awarded by the Hans R. Jenemann Foundation, which is administered by the German Chemical Society (Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker) and the German Bunsen Society for Physical Chemistry (Deutsche Bunsen-Gesellschaft für Physikalische Chemie). The prize honours outstanding publications in German, English or French in all fields of the history of scientific instruments and is named after Paul Bunge, the most important maker of analytical, assay and high-performance precision balances in the second half of the 19th century.

More recently, Dr Morrison-Low has been involved in producing an exhibition and book about the history of Scottish sea-marking; and has worked on exhibitions and publications celebrating the early history of photography and she worked with colleagues on the new Science and Technology galleries at National Museum of Scotland.

Since her retirement, Alison has continued to research, publish and lecture on the history of scientific instruments and history of photography. She became General Editor of the Scientific Instrument Commission’s Editorial Board in November 2021, after many years on the Board. She has been President of the Royal Scottish Society of Arts since 2018. She was on the Science Museum’s ‘Science City’ gallery advisory panel, which opened in 2019; and is currently on the Advisory Group of the AHRC-funded interdisciplinary research project ‘Tools of Knowledge’, 2021-2023.

Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years (Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland, 2015), by Sara Stevenson and A.D. Morrison-Low. 352pp.

From Earth-Bound to Satellite: Telescopes, Skills and Networks Scientific Instruments and Collections, 2 (Leiden and Boston: Brill 2012), edited by Alison Morrison-Low, Sven Dupré, Stephen Johnston and Giorgio Strano. 265pp.

Northern Lights: the Age of Scottish Lighthouses (Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland, 2010), 262pp.

Making Scientific Instruments in the Industrial Revolution (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007). 408pp. Winner of the Paul Bunge Prize, 2008.

Weights and Measures in Scotland: A European Perspective (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 2004), by R.D. Connor and A.D.C. Simpson, edited by A.D. Morrison-Low. 842pp. Winner of the Saltire Society Research Book of the Year, 2005.

‘The Soldier-Astronomer in Scotland: Thomas Makdougall Brisbane’s scientific work in the northern hemisphere’, Historical Records of Australian Science, 15 (2004), 151-176.

A Heavenly Library: Treasures from the Royal Observatory’s Crawford Collection (Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, 1994), with Angus Macdonald. 72pp.

‘Vulgar and Mechanick’: The Scientific Instrument Trade in Ireland 1650-1921 (Dublin and Edinburgh: Royal Dublin Society and National Museum of Scotland, 1989), with J.E. Burnett. 166pp.

Brass & Glass: Scientific Instrument Making Workshops in Scotland(Edinburgh: National Museum of Scotland, 1989), with T.N. Clarke and A.D.C. Simpson. 327pp.

‘Martyr of Science’: Sir David Brewster 1781-1868 (Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Museum, 1984), edited with John Christie. 138pp.

For further publications see the National Museums Scotland Research Repository.

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