Sir David Brewster

Sir David Brewster

The kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Sir David Brewster. He was a man of numerous intellectual pursuits. Whether delving into scientific research, religion, philosophy, education, optics, photography, writing, inventions, or life on other planets, Sir David pursued each endeavor with incredible energy.

Brewster was educated for the ministry at the University of Edinburgh, but his interest in science deflected him from pursuing this profession. In 1799 he began his investigations of light. His most important studies involved polarization, metallic reflection, and light absorption.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1815, and he invented the kaleidoscope the following year. He was knighted in 1831. In the early 1840s he improved the stereoscope by utilizing lenses to combine the two dissimilar binocular pictures and produce the three-dimensional effect. Brewster was instrumental in persuading the British to adopt the lightweight, flat Fresnel lens for use in lighthouses. In 1838 he became principal of the United College of St. Salvator and St. Leonard of the University of St. Andrews and in 1859 became principal of the University of Edinburgh.

What is a Kaleidoscope?
The kaleidoscope is a optical instrument that uses mirrors to produce ever changing symmetrical designs.

It often resembles a small hand-held telescope. The scope is tube shaped, at one end is an eyepiece, at the other end a glass cylinder usually filled with small pieces of colored glass. In the center of the tube are ether two of three rectangular mirrors.

Viewed though the eyepiece the mirrors cause the colored glass to form many symmetrical patterns. When the tube is rotated, the small pieces of colored glass move, changing the patterns dramatically.