Brass, Glass and Wood

The Fine Art of Technology

Antique scientific instruments are today much sought after by collectors. The Macleay Museum has a diverse selection of fine instruments, many of which were purchased by the University’s scientific departments when they were state-of-the-art technology. Other instruments have been donated to the University as historic artifacts. The small selection of instruments shown here indicates some of the richness of the Museum's technology collection.

Money Changer

Money Changer

Ell’s patent safecheck gold changer provided a canister of change for a sovereign (£1) or half sovereign (10 shillings) inserted in the appropriate slot.

MM 90/002

Refracting Telescope

Signed, "West, 92 & 93 FLEET ST LONDON"
MM 90/001
Tale of a Telescope (article and picture in Macleay Museum News No.7, April 1996)


Wollaston’s Reflecting Goniometer
Troughton & Simms, mid 19th century

Wollaston’s design, published in 1809, was a great improvement on the contact goniometer, enabling more accurate measurements to be taken, affecting the interpretation of the structure of crystals. "This simple, cheap and portable little instrument has changed the face of mineralogy, and given it all the characters of one of the exact science." (John Herschel, 1833)

W.B.Clarke collection, Macleay Museum

Malt gauger

Malt gauger’s slide rule

Following the invention of logarithms, slide rules were developed in the 17th century. Different types were invented for a variety of calculations. This one, made after 1824, was for calculating excise duties on beer.

Dring & Fage, England, 19th century
MM 90/042

Vacuum pump

Vacuum Pump, about 1880

Used to demonstrate vacuum experiments to lecture classes. There would originally have been a glass dome over the round table. The primary pump is of the double barrel type developed in the 18th century. A supplementary pump at the back of the base board was used to achieve a higher vacuum.

Signed, "W. LADD & Co/ 11 & 12 BEAK ST/ REGENT ST W."
MM 73/010

Analytical Balance

Analytical Balance

Various forms of balances have been used since antiquity. High precision balances have been used in quantitative chemistry since the late 18th century. This complex balance made about 1920 is a rare example of a precision balance by the Austrian firm of A. Ruprecht.

MM 88/001

Callendar temperature recorder

Callendar Temperature Recorder, about 1899

An early example of a recording measuring instrument (patented in 1897), it used a platinum thermometer (shown in front of the instrument case) the electrical resistance of which varies with temperature. A Wheatstone bridge balances the resistances in the circuit. The balancing mechanism operates the movement of a pen across the chart on a clockwork driven drum.

Invented by H.L.Callendar, Professor of Physics at McGill University, Montreal
MM 91/008


Sydney University’s first computer and one of the first in Australia, SILLIAC was modelled on ILLIAC at the University of Illinois in the United States. Constructed in the mid 1950s, SILLIAC was a thermionic valve machine with cathode ray tube memory. New computing facilities were gradually added to the University and SILLIAC was finally turned off in 1968.


Control Chassis from SILLIAC

This is one of many SILLIAC valve units. SILLIAC contained 2800 valves and 20km of wire with 54000 connections. Powerful in its day - "three months’ work in ten minutes" - the whole bulk of SILLIAC has long since been outstripped by a tiny microprocessor.