Edinburgh kaleidoscope display to celebrate Scottish pioneer's fascination with light

A QUIRKY and colourful collection of kaleidoscopes is going on display in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the instrument's invention.

Celebration of kaleidoscopes going on display in Edinburgh

Dozens of the optical curiosities – from antique traditional designs to modern works of art – have been lent from a private museum near Tokyo, Japan to be showcased at the University of Edinburgh.

They are on display as part of the Symmetries in Light exhibition, marking the creation of the kaleidoscope in 1816 by Professor Sir David Brewster, a former Principal of the University.

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The Scottish scientist is known as the father of experimental optics for his discoveries. His achievements include experiments on the polarisation of light – the principle behind LCD televisions and sunglasses. His pioneering work led to improved optical devices, and new areas of research.

One of the images on show in kaleidoscope display

The scientist was instrumental in the adoption of new optical systems in British lighthouses. He also developed an improved version of the stereoscope, the first portable device to create a 3D image by superimposing left and right images for the viewer.

Visitors will be able to experience many of the items on show at the free exhibition, which runs as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival from 3-5 and 7-10 April at the Playfair Library. The display will be supported by a programme of interactive science-based activities for families, managed by the University of Edinburgh, and a talk about Brewster’s legacy at on 8 April, in the exhibition venue.

One of the images on show in kaleidoscope display