William Nicholson (1753-1815) was a science enthusiast in London who, in 1790, mentioned his attempt “to adapt the hydrometer to the general purpose of finding the specific gravity, both of solids and of fluids,” and published a picture of this instrument. In 1797, in the second issue of the first volume of the Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts—a publication that Nicholson established and edited—there was an article by the French chemist, Guyton de Morveau, describing a hydrometer that Nicholson had designed several years earlier. In time, Nicholson’s instrument would be termed a gravimeter, a portable balance, or a hydrostatic balance. This incomplete and unsigned example came from the University of Santa Clara.

Ref: William Nicholson, An Introduction to Natural Philosophy (London, 1790), vol. 2, pp. 13-16, and fig. 123.

Citizen Guyton, “Description of a Gravimeter, or Instrument for measuring the Specific Gravity of Solids and Fluids,” Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and the Arts 1 (June 1797): 110-119, and plate 6.

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.325975Catalog Number: 325975Accession Number: 256489

Object Name: Hydrometer

Measurements: overall: 11 in x 2 1/4 in; 27.94 cm x 5.715 cmoverall: 10 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in; 26.67 cm x 6.35 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b2-4674-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1762295

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