Sir David Brewster

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David Brewster

Birthplace: Canongate, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Death: Died in Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of James Brewster and Margaret Brewster
Husband of Juliet Macpherson
Father of Margaret Maria Brewster and Constance Marion Hope

Managed by: Alisdair James Smyth
Last Updated:

About Sir David Brewster

Biographical Summary

BREWSTER, SIR DAVID. 11/12/1781-10/02/1868. Ref: 195. Male.

  • Titles and British Honours: KH(1832).
  • Place of Birth: Canongate, Jedburgh, Roxburghshire.
  • Place of Death: Allerly, Melrose, Roxburghshire.
  • Profession: Physicist.
  • Appointments Held: Principal 1837-59, St Andrews University; 1859-68, Edinburgh University.
  • Undergraduate Studies: MA(Edinburgh 1800).
  • Postgraduate Studies: LL D(Aberdeen 1807), MA(Cantab1807).
  • Mother: Margaret Key.
  • Father: James Brewster, Rector of Jedburgh Grammar School.
  • References: DNB 6, 1886, 299-303; Royal Scottish Museum Studies, 1984; Proc Roy Soc Edinb, 6, 1866-9, 282-4; Proc Roy Soc, 17, 1869, lxix-lxxiv signed JHG; Shapin 58; A Livingstone, Minerals of Scotland Past And Present, Edinburgh, 2002, 47-9; Gillispie 2, 451-4.
  • Memberships: FRS (1815),FSA(Scot), MRIA, MICE, FSSA(Founding Director).
  • Date of Election: 25/06/1808.
  • Proposers: Alexander Dirom, John Playfair, James Russell (Minute 04/01/1808 NLS Acc10,000/4). See notes.
  • Service to the RSE: Councillor (Physical) 1813-19, Councillor 1828-31, Vice-President 1831-64, President 1864-8.
  • RSE Prizes and Medals: Keith Prize 1827-9, 1829-31.
  • Notes: Previously proposed by Alexander Dirom, John Playfair, John Leslie (Minute 02/02/1807 NLS Acc10,000/4 & Acc10,000/12) "Father of Modern Optics".
  • Fellow Type: OF.

SOURCE: Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Biographical index of former fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1783-2002: Biographical Index. I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. page 111

Other References

  • Wikipedia contributors. "David Brewster." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Sir David Brewster KH PRSE FRS FSA(Scot) FSSA MICE (11 December 1781 – 10 February 1868) was a Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor, writer, historian of science and university principal.

He was invested as a Knight, Hanoverian Order (K.H.). He was a natural philosopher and academic administrator.

Most noted for his contributions to the field of optics, he studied the double refraction by compression and discovered the photoelastic effect,[1] which gave birth to the field of optical mineralogy.[2] For his work, William Whewell dubbed him the "Father of modern experimental optics" and "the Johannes Kepler of Optics."[3]

He is well-recognized for being the inventor of the kaleidoscope and an improved version of the stereoscope applied to photography.[4] He called it the "lenticular stereoscope", which was the first portable, 3D viewing device.[5] He also invented the binocular camera,[6][7] two types of polarimeters,[8] the polyzonal lens and the lighthouse illuminator.[9]

A prominent figure in the popularization of science,[10] he is considered one of the founders of the British Association,[11][12] of which he would be elected President in 1849.[13] In addition, he was the editor of the 18-volume Edinburgh Encyclopedia.


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Sir David Brewster's Timeline

December 11, 1781
Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland
Age 45
February 10, 1868
Age 86
Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland