Ripple Tank

The ripple tank demonstrated a variety of wave phenomena, and was the best known device created by the Physical Sciences Study Committee. It was introduced in the late 1950s and remained essentially unchanged for 50 years. In this example, the tank is made of glass with wooden sides and 4 aluminum legs. A support rod, V-shaped base, and clamps hold the high power lamp. Two wooden square rods serve as straight wave generators; each is equipped with a small motor. There are, in addition, several yellow ball wave generators and several foam rubber baffles.
The light source consists of a 150-watt glass lamp mounted in a well-ventilated flat black shield. Its box is marked: The Science Source®. This firm was established in Waldoboro, Maine, in 1986. It is still in business and still selling light sources of this sort. See
References: PSSC, "Physics Laboratory Guide" (1960), pp. 26-33 (photos and diagrams of several ripple tank set-ups).
Central Scientific Company, "Educational Catalog" (1974), p. 48 (for ripple tank).
Currently not on view
Object Name
ripple tank
Date made
late 1950s
Physical Science Study Committee
Physical Description
wood (sides material)
glass (tank material)
metal (legs material)
overall: 22 1/2 in x 22 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in; 57.15 cm x 57.15 cm x 6.35 cm
Place Made
United States: Massachusetts, Cambridge
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Scientific Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object