Davis-Bruning Colorimeter

Armin J. Bruning, an employee of the H. B. Davis paint company in Baltimore, designed a colorimeter so that distant shops could create paints of the exact same colors, and received a patent (#2,566,079) in 1951. The Fisher Scientific Co. in Pittsburgh offered the Davis-Bruning colorimeter between 1952 and 1960, noting that it cost $650 and could be used for plastics, ceramics, textiles, printing inks, and paints.
Each unit had eight porcelain panels of different primary colors. In use, light of variable intensities from a standardized source is reflected off four of these panels and combined on a screen to form the desired color. This example is marked "DAVIS-BRUNING COLORIMETER FISHER SCIENTIFIC SERIAL No. 123 Pat 1951 MADE IN U.S.A.” and “115 VOLT 60 CYCLE." The Department of Chemistry of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute donated it to the Smithsonian in 1981.
Ref: Fisher Scientific Company, Modern Laboratory Appliances (Pittsburgh, 1952), p. 285.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1951
Fisher Scientific Company
Physical Description
aluminum (overall material)
bakelite (overall material)
chrome plate (overall material)
housing and base: 22.8 cm x 61 cm x 70.2 cm; 8 31/32 in x 24 1/32 in x 27 5/8 in
dial panel: 40.3 cm x 60.5 cm x 55 cm; 15 7/8 in x 23 13/16 in x 21 5/8 in
overall: 55.5 cm x 61 cm x 78.4 cm; 21 7/8 in x 24 in x 30 7/8 in
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
serial number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Chemistry

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