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Reflecting Telescopes

This small display revealed the work of pioneering Scots in the development of the reflective telescope.
Exhibition information


25 March - 28 August 2016


National Museum of Scotland, Three display cases, Grand Gallery, Level 1

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In particular, Reflecting Telescopes highlighted the work of James Gregory (1638‑75), a contemporary of Isaac Newton and Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews then Edinburgh University. Gregory published an innovative design for a ‘reflecting’ telescope in 1663. A predecessor of the modern telescope, Gregory’s device used mirrors, rather than glass lenses, to create a more compact instrument and sharper images.

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    18-inch silvered glass telescope speculum by George With, 1878.

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    Reflecting telescope by Edward Scarlett, London, c. 1730.

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    Reflecting telescope made by James Short of London, c. 1765.

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    Portrait of James Gregory, mathematician and inventor of the reflecting telescope, attributed to Richard Waitt (1708-32).

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    Section of a reflecting telescope for astronomy.

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Early examples of Gregorian telescopes produced by Edinburgh-born optician James Short (1710-68) were also included. Combining self-taught engineering skills with an interest in practical mathematics, Short constructed over 1,300 telescopes in his lifetime.

The display also touched upon astronomy in Edinburgh, a city that has remained at the forefront of astronomical research and discovery for more than four centuries.

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