Brewster, Sir David

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b. 11 December 1781 Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland
d. 10 February 1868 Allerly, Scotland
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Scottish scientist and popularizer of science, inventor of the kaleidoscope and lenticular stereoscope.
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Originally destined to follow his father into the Church, Brewster studied divinity at Edinburgh University, where he met many distinguished men of science. He began to take a special interest in optics, and eventually abandoned the clerical profession. In 1813 he presented his first paper to the Royal Society on the properties of light, and within months invented the principle of the kaleidoscope. In 1844 Brewster described a binocular form of Wheatstone's reflecting stereoscope where the mirrors were replaced with lenses or prisms. The idea aroused little interest at the time, but in 1850 a model taken to Paris was brought to the notice of L.J.Duboscq, who immediately began to manufacture Brewster's stereoscope on a large scale; shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851, it attracted the attention of Queen Victoria. Stereoscopic photography rapidly became one of the fashionable preoccupations of the day arid did much to popularize photography. Although originally marketed as a scientific toy and drawing-room pastime, stereoscopy later found scientific application in such fields as microscopy, photogrammetry and radiography. Brewster was a prolific scientific author throughout his life. His income was derived mainly from his writing and he was one of the nineteenth century's most distinguished popularizers of science.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1832. FRS 1815.
Further Reading
Dictionary of National Biography, 1973, Vol. II, Oxford, pp. 1,207–11.
A.D.Morrison-Low and J.R.R.Christie (eds), 1984, Martyr of Science, Edinburgh (proceedings of a Bicentenary Symposium).
JW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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