Teylers Instrument Room

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Teylers Museum rooms
Fossil Room IFossil Room IIInstrument RoomR. van Stolk RoomLuminescene RoomOval RoomPrint RoomCoin and Medal RoomPaintings Gallery IPaintings Gallery IIBook RoomExhibition GalleryFoundation House
Instrument Room taken from the doorway to the Fossil room 2, with leyden jars in the foreground

The Instrument Room is a room in Teylers Museum which houses a part of the museum's Cabinet of Physics: a collection of scientific instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries. The instruments in the collection were used for research as well as for educational public demonstrations. Most of them are demonstration models that illustrate various aspects of electricity, acoustics, light, magnetism, thermodynamics, and weights and measures. The rest are high-quality precision instruments that were used for research.

History of the room[edit]

Originally all of the museum's collections were housed in the Oval Room from 1784. The electricity instrument demonstrations tended to make a lot of noise and distracted the readers of the books in the gallery, and after the mineralogical cabinet was built for the center of the room, demonstrations there became more difficult and a new demonstration and lecture room was built on the north side (today the Print room). This new room shared its purpose with the art gallery but as the number of instrument cabinets increased, was felt to be too dark, leading to the creation of a separate painting gallery in 1838. The current instrument room was built as part of an 1880-1885 extension of the museum, designed to have daylight from both sides for better viewing of the experiments. It is located between the Fossil Room II and the Oval Room.

History of the collection[edit]

Though Pieter Teyler van der Hulst was a patron of the arts and sciences, he was not a member of the Natuur- en Sterrekundig Collegie, a science society in Haarlem that was founded in the Patientiestraat in 1775. The popularity of the study of science and the ideals of the Dutch enlightenment were such that after his death however, when Martin van Marum joined the young Teylers Stichting, this proved quickly to become the emphasis of the society in the years to come. Teylers Museum was not alone. The society Oefening door Wetenschappen was also started in Haarlem in 1798 and lasted until 1892. It was Haarlem's reputation for the study of science that attracted Van Marum to settle there. When he became director of the collection of the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen in 1778 and later, also of Teylers in 1784, he used the funds of both institutions to purchase expensive instruments and even whole scientific collections from personal estates. He started before he even worked there with a proposal to build his large elektriseermachine that forms the center attraction of the instrument room. Van Marum was not only the curator of the cabinet, he gave public laboratorium lectures from 1777 to 1803 on physics and geology. The number of demonstration models in the collection is directly related to his and his successors' need for demonstration models in Teylers lectures. Van Marum collected 350 demonstration models and set a precedent as lecturer-demonstrator for curators who came after him. Today there are over a thousand in the collection altogether.

Instruments on display[edit]

The centerpiece of the Instrument Room is the large electrostatic generator built by John Cuthbertson in 1784. This apparatus is the largest flat-plate electrostatic generator of the world and the oldest piece in the room itself, which is filled mostly with items from the 19th century. Surrounding this centerpiece are 10 numbered cabinets filled with instruments accompanied by numbered cards that can be cross-referenced to a guide located in the room.

Chronometer Andreas Hohwü
Sound analyser with 8 resonator balls 1860s Rudolph Koenig
Synthesizer 1865 after Hermann von Helmholtz by Koenig
Synthesizer after Helmholtz 1865 after Helmholtz by Koenig
Wire cable display case Guglielmo Marconi
Cabinet I: thermometry heat conduction
Cabinet I
Cabinet II - measuring instruments (lower shelf)
Polytrope G.E. Sire
Cabinet III: electricity
Cabinet III
Cabinet III
Cabinet III
Cabinet III
Cabinet III
absolute electrometer 1883 Thomson by Breguet
Conductors (isolated with glass) to demonstrate the strength of electric charges don't depend on sphere size 1840
small cylinder electrostatic generator 1856 Jean Claude Eugène Péclet
1860 spark measurer and 1865 discharger for spectroscope 1860-5
gold leaf electrometer 1866
induction machine 1888 James Wimshurst
electroscope 1912 Franz S. Exner
spark duration demonstrator 1859
electroscope 1870
discharge points 1890
The small electricity machine developed by Martin van Marum as a student Gerhard Kuyper
Cabinet IV: Telegraphy
commutator for Telegraph 1865
contact breaker 1865
philips lightbulbs
Wireless telegraphy receiver 1897 Guglielmo Marconi
Cabinet V: geomagnetics and Geissler
Gas discharge tube with holder by Ducretet and Lejeune 1862 Heinrich Geißler
Universal geomagnetic instrument 1877 after Moritz Meyerstein & Henry Barrow
X-ray tube 1930
Cabinet VII: optics
reading telescopes 1865 Carl August von Steinheil
uranium glass objects 1861 and photometer 1870 1861-1870
Cabinet VIII: acoustics
Cabinet VIII - sound
Cabinet VIII - sound
Cabinet VIII - sound
Cabinet IX - sound
Cabinet IX - sound
Cabinet IX
Graphophone by Columbia Phonograph Company 1897 CBC
Three almost identical telephone sets after Bell end of 19th century c.1880 Alexander Graham Bell
Cabinet X: Heat, carbon arc lamps
Cabinet X
galvanometer Leopoldo Nobili


  • Teyler 1778-1978:studies en bijdragen over Teylers Stichting naar aanleiding van het tweede eeuwfeest, by J. H. van Borssum Buisman, H. Enno van Gelder, Pieter Teyler van der Hulst, Schuyt, 1978, ISBN 90-6097-091-8

External links[edit]