ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology

Who invented the Kaleidoscope?

Updated on June 8, 2009

Who invented the Kaleidoscope?

The kaleidoscope, a tube containing bits of coloured glass, etc., which arrange themselves in beautiful and ever-changing shapes, was one of the most popular inventions of the nineteenth century.

The kaleidoscope was invented by the Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816. He also devised an instrument to project images of objects into the kaleidoscope so that they are multiplied and reproduced to form symmetrical patterns.

However, the instrument could be made so easily that the patent rights were violated, and Brewster missed the fortune it might have brought him. He had discovered the principle on which the effects of the kaleidoscope depend, while engaged in experiments on the polarization of light by successive reflections between plates of glass.

A simple device for producing symmetrical colored patterns, kaleidoscopes were popular toys.

A simple kaleidoscope consists of a cylinder of cardboard with two plane mirrors that extend from one end to the other and are set at an angle to each other. At one end of the cylinder are two glass plates, an outer frosted one and an inner clear one. Between the two plates are several small pieces of colored glass. When the cylinder is rotated, the pieces of glass fall into a variety of patterns. When viewed through an eyehole at the opposite end of the tube, the patterns are multiplied and made into symmetrical forms by the many reflections between the mirrors.

It was soon in everybody's hands, admirably fitting in with the Regency taste in elegant coloured bric-a-brac. 'Every person who could buy or make one', runs a contemporary report, 'had a Kaleidoscope. Men, women and children, rich and poor, in houses, or walking in the streets, in carriages or on coaches, were to be seen looking into the wonder-working tube, admiring the beautiful patterns it produced, and the magical changes which the least movement of the instrument occasioned.

We all know that we can form several images from one object by using two mirrors. If inclined to each other at an angle of 90° they give three images of an object placed between them, the images and the object being apparently placed at the four corners of a rectangle. If the mirrors are inclined to each other at an angle of 60°, five images are produced which, with the original object, show a hexagonal arrangement.

It was these symmetrically arranged images which suggested to Brewster the kaleidoscope, in which two long, narrow mirrors are placed lengthways in a tube, inclined to each other at 60°. One end of the tube is closed by two parallel plates of glass, the outer one ground-glass, the inner one transparent, leaving between them a space in which are placed small pieces of coloured glass, pieces of twisted glass of varying curvature, small glass tubes partly filled with colored liquid, etc. At the other end of the tube is a small eye-hole or, in better instruments, a convex lens. On looking into the tube one sees the images of the pieces of glass so reflected that beautiful symmetrical coloured patterns are produced, of infinite variety, for with every movement of the instrument the pieces of glass rearrange themselves in new combinations.

According to the inventor, the express object of the kaleidoscope was less to amuse than 'to exhibit and create beautiful forms and patterns, of great use in all the ornamental arts'. In conjunction with a magic lantern, the images could be enlarged on a screen, affording entertainment to a number of people at the same time.

As with almost every popular invention, the primacy of Brewster's discovery was disputed by people interested in getting the patent set aside; they alleged that Athanasius Kircher had described the effects of repeated reflections in his Ars Magna (1646). However, there is only a superficial resemblance between Brewster's kaleidoscope and Kircher's instrument, which consisted of a many-faceted piece of cut-glass in a tube, through which one could either see patterns or project them on to a screen.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Kaleidoscope Lover 7 years ago

      Kaleidoscopes will help you share the love! How about adding some more photos of what you see inside a kaleidoscope?

    • Longtail profile image
      Author

      Longtail 9 years ago

      What? You don't like Kaleidoscopes?

      What sort of person doesn't like Kaleidoscopes?

    • profile image

      spencer 9 years ago

      you ass

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)