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Helsinki University Museum

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P.O. Box 3 (Unioninkatu 34)
00014 University of Helsinki
yo-museo(at)helsinki.fi

Exhibition
Fabianinkatu 33 (3. floor)
Opening hours
Tue-Thu 12-17, Fri 12-16

Info


Observatory

The Cabinet of Physics

The Cabinet of Physics started to collect and maintain illustrative materials and visual aids used in teaching during the era of the Royal Academy of Turku. But nearly all objects were destroyed by fire in 1827. Only four items are known for certain to have been rescued from the ruins of the academy building. Three of them had been acquired in 1814 from John Newman in London, and one from Paris in 1820.

The period from the mid-19th century to the early decades of the 20th century was the heyday of the Cabinet of Physics. In 1857, its extensive collections, which included teaching aids and research equipment and state-of-the-art technical devices, were open to the public in the main building of the University. In 1880 the Cabinet was moved to a better location at the corner of Hallituskatu and Nikolainkatu (now Snellmaninkatu). In 1911 the Department of Physics got its own institutional building on the hill of Siltavuori, and the Cabinet of Physics was housed there. During the coming decades the Cabinet lost its importance in the teaching of the physics, and the collections were closed in the 1950s.

Most teaching aids and demonstration apparatuses in the present collections of the museum date from the latter part of the 19th century. In most cases these devices demonstrated the laws of physics in an extremely simple manner, but there are also more interactive instruments. Most of the items are fine examples of top-quality craftmanship; the materials used are very valuable. Even if their function may sometimes remain unclear, they are certainly beautiful to look at.

Magdeburg hemispheres

Photo Timo Huvilinna

When the air inside the sphere is pumped out, a pressure difference equalling one atmosphere is created between the outer and inner surfaces of the ball. As a result, the hemispheres are pressed hard together. The device was acquired by the Royal Academy of Turku from John Newman in London in 1814; it is one of the rare objects in the Cabinet of Physics that were saved from the Great Fire of Turku in 1827.

Electric cannon

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A teaching aid in electrostatics. When charged with static electricity, the cannon shoots light-weight balls. The device was acquired by the Royal Academy of Turku from John Newman in London in 1814.

Nicholson's areometre

Photo Timo Huvilinna

The device was acquired by the Royal Academy of Turku from John Newman in London in 1814.

Gregory´s reflecting telescope

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Model of a telescope used in navigation, acquired in 1820 by the University
in Paris. Manufacturer: Navarre Quay de l´horloge du Palais, Paris.

Magic lantern slides

Photo Timo Huvilinna

The Laterna Magica, or the magic lantern was a device used for projecting transparent pictures on the wall - it was, in fact, a precursor of the modern slide projector. The pictures were painted on glass plates by hand and they had mechanically movable parts. Some of the motifs are rather frightening, such as the human skull with its jaws opening and closing, or the corpse rising up from a casket. The magic lantern with its slides was acquired in 1829.

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Model steam locomotive

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A large model that still works. Acquired in 1865, manufactured by I.A. Österlin, Helsinki .

Magic jug

Photo Timo Huvilinna

When the jug is filled with water and overturned, a double bottom prevents the water from running out. The jug was used to demonstrate water pressure. Acquired in 1860.

Magic funnel

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A device familiar from conjurors' tricks; in 19th-century university teaching it was used to demonstrate water pressure. The funnel holds a decilitre of water without letting it drip out. The funnel was acquired in 1829 from Mr. Rospin, master mechanic to the imperial court in St. Petersburg.

Cylindrical and conical mirrors

A distorted picture may be corrected with the help of different kinds of mirrors.

Photo Timo Huvilinna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Photo Timo Huvilinna

Pine-apple-shaped fountain

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A device used as a teaching aid in pneumatics. The pine-apple and the top part of the pot were filled with water. Atmospheric pressure prevented the water from running down from the pine-apple. As the pot was heated, the air from the pot rose along the stem into the pine-apple, and an equal amount of water dripped down through the small tubes at the bottom of the fruit. ä mukaa kuin lisää ilmaa pääsee ananakseen, vettä pääsee valumaan putkista ulos.

Hero's well

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A device used as a teaching aid in pneumatics. The top part was filled with water which, as it ran down, created low pressure. By making use of this and a difference in temperature, water could be made to circulate in the device without interruption. Hero's well, which can be regarded as a forerunner of the modern air humidifier, was used as an ornament in the 19th century.

Ear-trumpet

Model of human eye

Photo Timo Huvilinna

By conducting smoke into the model it was possible to follow the course of light rays through the eye. The model was probably acquired in 1863. Upto the 1960's the teaching of physics for medical students took place at the Department of Physics. This is why the Cabinet of Physics has models of, for example, the human ear and eye.

Model of human ear

Photo Timo Huvilinna

A take-apart visual aid in physiological acoustics. Acquired in 1856, manufactured by G. Sieger, Schkenditz-Leipzig.

Plaster model of the human organs of speech

Photo Timo Huvilinna

The larynx and tongue are removable. Manufactured by G. Sieger, Schkenditz-Leipzig.

Standards for length and mass

Standards for metre, yard, kilogramme and pound that were the official standards not only for the University, but for the whole of Finland . Permission from the University Senate was required for reference measurements and the Rector kept the key to the case where the standards were kept. Acquired by Professor Selim Lemström from Stockholm in the early 1870's.

Photo Timo Huvilinna