DEAD: David Brewster

DEAD: ON THIS DATE

David Brewster (aged 86)

British astronomer and inventor of the kaleidoscope

Sir David Brewster (11 December 1781 – 10 February 1868) was a British scientist, inventor, author, and academic administrator. In science he is principally remembered for his experimental work in physical optics, mostly concerned with the study of the polarization of light and including the discovery of Brewster’s angle. He studied the birefringence of crystals under compression and discovered photoelasticity, thereby creating the field of optical mineralogy. For this work, William Whewell dubbed him the “father of modern experimental optics” and “the Johannes Kepler of optics.”

A pioneer in photography, Brewster invented an improved stereoscope, which he called “lenticular stereoscope” and which became the first portable 3D-viewing device. He also invented the binocular camera, two types of polarimeters, the polyzonal lens, the lighthouse illuminator, and the kaleidoscope.

DEATH: Brewster died in 1868, and was buried at Melrose Abbey, next to his first wife and second son. The physics building at Heriot-Watt University is named in his honour.

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