<< >>
Usage conditions apply
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 example came from Bucknell University. The maker is unknown.
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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
overall: 11 in x 2 in; 27.94 cm x 5.08 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object