Watt's Barometer - The Cistern

One2Ten - National Museum of Scotland

Ten exceptional exhibits from the Science & Technology Collection of the National Museum of Scotland, which has reopened in Edinburgh after a £46.4m redevelopment.

1 Watt's Barometer 

The Cistern barometer is extremely rare as it is the only surviving signed instrument made by James Watt in his workshop.

Greenock-born James Watt (1736-1819) is famous principally as an engineer. However, as a young man he trained as a scientific instrument maker, initially in Glasgow, then for a year in London in the workshop of John Morgan before returning north. Between 1757 and 1771 he ran a successful instrument-making business, closely associated with Glasgow University. Few instruments made by Watt have survived from this period: indeed, this barometer signed by Watt is the only known complete instrument from this period of Watt's life.

2 Tay Optic Light

This dioptic Lighthouse Optic (Chance Brothers, Birmingham and James Dove & Co., Edinburgh, 1889) was designed by David Stevenson for the Lighthouse on the Island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth. The Lighthouse had been built in 1803 by Robert Stevenson and his father-in-law, Thomas Smith, to protect shipping coming into the Port of Leith. It stayed in use until the last keeper was withdrawn and the Lighthouse automated in 1985.

The Stevenson family built or rebuilt every lighthouse around the coast of Scotland. Between 1752 and 1971, five generations of the family designed and built lighthouses in the most difficult conditions imaginable. Their success in Scotland drew worldwide attention and their business took them around the world. In 1868 they exported an entire lighthouse system to Japan.

3 Wylam Dilly

Wylam Dilly is one of the two oldest surviving locomotives in the world, the other being Puffing Billy. She was built in 1813 by William Hedley to pull coal trucks along wagonways at Wylam Colliery in Co Durham and worked for 20 years longer than her sister locomotive.

One of the strangest episodes in Wylam Dilly's history occurred during 1822. Wylam Dilly and Puffing Billy were being used to haul coal from the colliery to the River Tyne. The coal was then off-loaded and put onto keels or small boats to be taken down the river. In 1822, the keelmen who piloted the small boats went on strike and coal began to pile up on the riverbank. Hedley adapted Wylam Dilley into a tugboat to pull cargo along the river. Even after the strike was broken, Wylam Dilley continued to work as a tugboat for some time before returning to the railway.

4 The Schmidt Telescope

Installed in 1951 in the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, on Blackford Hill, the Schmidt has no eye piece, but is imaged directly onto glass photographic plates, which are no longer made.

In the early 1960s the Schmidt was the most widely used telescope on Blackford Hill, but it retired in the 1970s. Moving the telescope was somewhat of a challenge; due to its size, it was kept in the aircraft conservation studio at the National Museum of Flight while the redevelopment was completed. As it was screwed down, the Schmidt's weight (2.6 tonnes) was not known until the crane lifted it out.

5 The Submillimetre Common User Bolometer Array

The Submillimetre Common User Bolometer Array (SCUBA), built at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, is one of the most important modern astronomical tools after Hubble. When it came into use in 1996, nothing else could see galaxies so far away: over 10 billion light years distant, three-quarters of the age of the universe.

The SCUBA is a camera that works by picking up submillimetre wavelength radiation (between far-infrared and the shortest microwaves). It was used to image cool dust clouds, including dust which might be forming into planets, or obscuring the stars in ancient galaxies, further into space and back in time than anything else could image. These very early galaxies were called SCUBA galaxies.

Despite its tiny number of pixels (37 on one sensor, 91 on the other) SCUBA was arguably the most productive piece of ground-based astronomical equipment. Its replacement, SCUBA 2, has 10,000 pixels.

6 Alexander Dalrymple

In 1795, Alexander Dalrymple (1737-1808) became the first hydrographer to the Admiralty. He is credited with the creation and design of the Admiralty Charts, which provided a guide to the safe navigation of the world's oceans.

Dalrymple's work meant that the Royal Navy had the most accurate sea charts in the world, paving the way for the rapid growth of the British Empire. Edinburgh artist John Thomas Seton's 1765 portrait of Dalrymple, painted when he was 28, shows him at his family's Newhailes home with the tools of his trade – globe, charts and dividers. He is in naval uniform, having just returned from the East Indies. Also on display are artefacts including a globe from 1804, 18th-century hand-held navigation dividers and a coloured, engraved chart by Dalrymple himself from 1770.

7 Alexander Fleming

The discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) has saved millions of lives. After years of research on acute bacterial infections, Fleming made his discovery by accident in 1928. Clearing up a set of glass plates which had been used to grow bacteria, he noticed that the mould inhibited its growth. Fleming realised the fluid from the mould might work as an antibiotic – he later called it penicillin. The display includes Fleming's Nobel Prize Gold Medal for Medicine (1945), as well as numerous other awards, a Penicillin production vessel from 1940 and a specimen of Penicillin Notatum from 1948.

8 Bulldog

Scottish Aviation Limited was founded in 1935 by Squadron Leader Douglas Douglas-Hamilton and Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who achieved lasting fame when they became the first to fly over Mount Everest in 1933.

The company repaired and modified aircraft during World War Two, and in 1970, took over the rights to build the Bulldog military trainer. One of the company test pilots in the early 1970s was Angus, the 15th Duke of Hamilton, son of the co-founder. He had joined the company after serving as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force flying Canberra jets. He later bought this aircraft, the Bulldog, the second prototype and the first to be built in Scotland. He demonstrated the aerobatic capability of the aircraft and his own flying skills many times at the National Museum of Flight Air Show.

9 Dolly the Sheep

Dolly, named after buxom country and western singer Dolly Parton because her DNA was taken from the cell of a ewe's udder, was the first mammal to be cloned artificially from an adult cell. Dolly was born on 5 July 1996 at the Roslin institute near Edinburgh as part of an experiment to find out if an adult cell could be reprogrammed and develop normally into a new embryo.

Cloning Dolly has opened up many possibilities for medical and agricultural advances. Previously these benefits were thought to be impossible or only feasible using embryonic cells. Dolly died on 14 February 2003 after developing a fatal lung disease, ovine pulmonary carcinoma.

10 Kay Type 33/1 Gyroplane

The first Kay Gyroplane was designed in 1934 by David Kay and John Grieve of Scone, and built by Shields Grange in Perth. After successfully testing the prototype at Scone Aerodrome, the partners moved on to a more advanced design that they hoped to interest the Air Ministry in buying. This second gyroplane was built in the following year and made its first flight from Eastleigh Aerodrome. Although the aircraft impressed Air Ministry officials no orders were placed for a production version. The design of the Kay Type 33/1 was ahead of its time. It was the first rotorcraft to use variable incidence rotors, a feature that would become standard on all helicopters. The increased lift gained by fitting a four-bladed rotor was another significant feature. As the first prototype is no longer in existence this remains the sole example of the innovative Kay gyroplane.

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