Description (Brief)
The Sorby-Browning micro-spectroscope is a direct-vision instrument that fit on the eye-end of a microscope. The form was developed by Henry Clifton Sorby (1826-1908), an English microscopist, and John Browning (ca. 1831-1925), the first important English spectroscope maker. It excited great interest when introduced in 1865, found numerous scientific, medical, and forensic applications, and was still popular at the turn of the century.
This example incorporates several features that were introduced in 1870. One is a bright-line micrometer at the upper part of the prism tube that was used to measure the position of spectral lines. Another is a thumb-screw on the side that was used to focus the prisms and eye-glass on different parts of the spectrum. And yet another is an adjustable mirror that throws light onto the auxiliary slit at the side. The inscription reads “John Browning / London.”
This example was owned by John King (1813-1893), an American physician, scientist, and proponent of eclectic medicine. It comes in a wooden box that also holds an assortment of glass slides.
Ref: “On a New Micro-Spectroscope,” Chemical News 15 (1867): 220-221.
H. Schellen, Spectrum Analysis (New York, 1872), pp. 133-140.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Browning, John
Physical Description
metal, brass (overall material)
glass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 7 1/2 in; 19.05 cm
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
associated place
United States: Ohio, Lima
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Scientific Instruments
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Medicine
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
John J. Sutter (through John Uri Lloyd)
Additional Media

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