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H5266 Hydrometer, containing spirit hydrometers (17) in circular box, glass / wood / paper / textile, made by James Corte, Glasgow, Scotland, 1750-1805. Click to enlarge.

Hydrometer 'Philosophical Bubbles' by James Corte, Glasgow

Made
These 'Philosophical Bubbles' were invented by Alexander Wilson of Glasgow University around 1750 to test the specific gravity of liquids. In 1805 Edinburgh glassworker Isabell Lovi improved the instrument. This set was made by James Corte in Glasgow, probably between 1750 and 1805. It is much easier to use than other hydrometers: just note the number engraved on the bubble that sits in your fluid (in this case, an alcoholic drink) without sinking or rising to the surface.

The common …

Summary

Object No.

H5266

Object Statement

Hydrometer, containing spirit hydrometers (17) in circular box, glass / wood / paper / textile, made by James Corte, Glasgow, Scotland, 1750-1805

Physical Description

Hydrometer, 'Philosophical Bubbles' or 'Gravity Beads', 17 spirit hydrometers in circular wooden box for gauging density of liquids, glass / wood / paper / textile, made by James Corte, Glasgow, Scotland, 1750-1805

Set of 17 spirit hydrometers in a circular box made of polished wood. Each one is a hollow glass sphere with a small stem that was detached from the glassblower's blowpipe. Opposite the stem on each bubble is etched a number that indicates its specific gravity.

The stems of the bubbles fit into holes provided in the textile-covered base of their box. On the inside of the lid is glued a piece of paper bearing the maker's name and address and a list of spirits and the numbers of the beads that just float in them. A thin disc of cotton wool sits between the bubbles and the lid.

In use, beads are placed in the spirit to be tested, and the number is read from the bead that just floats.

Dimensions

Height

33 mm

Width

85 mm

Depth

85 mm

Production

Notes

Dr Alexander Wilson, professor of astronomy at Glasgow University, invented this type of hydrometer around 1750. Mrs Lovi, a member of a family of glassblowers of Italian ancestry who had settled in Scotland, later improved the instrument. This set was made by James Corte, who had premises in the Saltmarket, Glasgow, but the dates of his production are unknown.

Reference
Brewster, David, The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia, J & E Parker, 1832, volume 10, p 783

History

Notes

Nothing is known about the provenance of this set, other than that it was donated by Robert Craig Dixson, company director, inherited wealth from his grandfather and father, tobacco merchants Hugh Dixson and Sir Hugh Dixson. Family members were well-known collectors and philanthropists; this Museum has a collection of tsuba acquired by Sir Hugh and his wife. Robert could have acquired the hydrometer from his uncle, Sir William Dixson, who studied engineering at Glasgow, worked in the family firm, endowed the Dixson Library in Sydney, and died in 1952.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Robert C Dixson, 1954

Acquisition Date

19 January 1954

Cite this Object

Harvard

Hydrometer 'Philosophical Bubbles' by James Corte, Glasgow 2022, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 4 October 2022, <https://ma.as/242664>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/242664 |title=Hydrometer 'Philosophical Bubbles' by James Corte, Glasgow |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=4 October 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}