Museum of the History of Science UNSW

The collection consists primarily of scientific and technical instruments dating back to the early nineteenth century which have been collected over the past thirty years by retired chemistry lecturers, Dr David Alderdice and Dr Brian Craven, and is a major resource for a general education subject offered by the Science Communication Program at UNSW. Some of these items are connected to prominent scientists or instrument makers of the past, notably, a Langmuir surface balance which in 1949 was brought from Cambridge by A.E. Alexander when he took up the Foundation Chair of Applied Chemistry of the then newly established New South Wales University of Technology (later to become UNSW).

The Museum of the History of Science (MHS) has evolved from its original state and is now part of the Historical Instrument Collection, sponsored by the Science Communication Program at the University of New South Wales. As with most collections around 20% was on display with the remaining items in storage. The items in storage now form the Museum Without Walls (MWW), which are loaned to high school teachers and science enthusiasts on two year contracts. The MHS is comprised of the more valuable and high interest pieces of the original collection and is displayed in the UNSW library foyer.


The collection now consists of around 100 objects including microscopes, galvanometers, spectroscopes, balances and calculators. The oldest piece in the collection is a chemical slide rule made by William Carey in 1814. Other notable objects from the 19th century are a Powell and Lealand microscope with accessories (engraved date 1847) and a Daniell dew-point hygrometer dating from about 1840 (this item is similar to that portrayed in Turner’s book, page 242 dated 1830).