Beckmann Thermometer

This is an unusually precise mercury-in-glass thermometer that was designed to measure temperatures over a very small range, especially near the melting and freezing points of substances. Ernest Otto Beckmann, a physical chemist who worked with Wilhelm Ostwald in Leipzig, described the form in 1888.
This example has a long cylindrical bulb at the bottom, an s-shaped tube with auxiliary bulb at the top, and a porcelain plate carrying a scale that ranges from -.04 to +1.1 degrees Centigrade and that is graduated to 0.002 degrees. The back of the plate is marked “Centigrade” and “Thermometer n. Beckmann.” The whole is enclosed in a cylindrical glass tube with brass cap.
This instrument was used at the Johns Hopkins University, perhaps by Harry C. Jones, a chemist who received his PhD from Hopkins in 1892, spent two years working in the laboratories of Ostwald and other important European chemists, and then returned to Hopkins to teach physical chemistry. It may have been made by F. O. R. Goetze, a Leipzig firm that specialized in thermometers of this sort.
Ref.: Wilhelm Ostwald, Manual of Physico-Chemical Measurements (London, 1894), pp. 180-182.
Harry C. Jones, The Elements of Physical Chemistry 4th edition, revised (New York, 1915), pp. 228-230.
John Servos, Physical Chemistry from Ostwald to Pauling (Princeton, 1990).
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1900
overall: 21 1/2 in x 3/4 in; 54.61 cm x 1.905 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Measuring & Mapping
Thermometers and Hygrometers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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