Phosphorescent Tubes

Phosphorescent Tubes

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This is a mahogany box holding six glass vials. A paper tag on the bottom of the box identifies this as a “PHOSPHOROSCOPE” and notes, in French, that it contains examples of the most beautiful specimens (the sulfurs of calcium, strontium and barium). This tag is signed “Draper.”
This was found in the Draper family house in Hasting-on-Hudson, New York, and probably belonged to John William Draper (1811-1882). An English immigrant who did import work in several areas of science and medicine, Draper was particularly well known for his researches relating to radiant energy and phosphorescence.
The phosphoroscope, an instrument that measures how long a phosphorescent material will glow after it has been excited, was devised in the late 1850s by the French physicist, Alexandre Edmond Becquerel.
According to the article on “Phosphorescence” in The American Cyclopaedia, vol. 13 (1879), “Phosphorescent tubes have been made in Germany and France for several years, and their preparation was kept a secret; but such tubes are now produced by several experimenters showing all the colors of the rainbow, and preparations may be made to imitate flowers and bright-colored insects, as well as landscapes.”
Ref: George F. Barker, “Memoir of John William Draper,” Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (1886), pp. 349-388.
Currently not on view
Object Name
phosphorescent materials
Physical Description
mahogany (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 19 mm x 55 mm x 133 mm; 3/4 in x 2 3/16 in x 5 1/4 in
overall in box: 13/16 in x 5 1/4 in x 2 3/16 in; 2.06375 cm x 13.335 cm x 5.55625 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
John William Christopher Draper and James Christopher Draper
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Chemistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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