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Automatic Registration of Instruments by Photography

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Title: Automatic Registration of Instruments by Photography  
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Subject: Julius Erasmus Hilgard
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Automatic Registration of Instruments by Photography

Charles Brooke FRS (1804–1879) was an English surgeon and inventor.

Surgical career

Brooke, son of the well-known mineralogist, Henry James Brooke, was born 30 June 1804. His early education was carried on at Chiswick, under Dr. Turner. After this he was entered at Rugby School in 1819 and St John's College, Cambridge, where he remained five years. He was twenty-third wrangler and B.A. 1827, B.M. 1828, and M.A. in 1853.[1] During a part of this period he studied medicine, and his professional education was completed at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He passed the Royal College of Surgeons examination on 3 Sept. 1834, and became a fellow of that institution 26 Aug. 1844. He lectured for one or two sessions on surgery at Dermott's School, and afterwards held positions on the surgical staff of the Metropolitan Free Hospital and the Westminster Hospital, which latter appointment he resigned in 1869.

He is known as the inventor of the bead suture, which was a great step in advance in the scientific treatment of deep wounds. On 4 March 1847 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He belonged to the Royal Meteorological Society (president 1865-1866) and the Royal Microscopical Society. He also at various times served on the management of the Royal Institution and on the council of the Royal Botanical Society. In addition to these he was connected with many philanthropic and religious societies, and was a very active member of the Victoria Institute and Christian Medical Association.


His public papers and lectures generally pertained to the department of physics, mathematical and experimental, and his more special work was the inventing or perfecting of apparatus. His papers ‘Motion of Sound in Space; but the work upon which his reputation mainly rests was published between 1846 and 1852. This was the invention of those self-recording instruments[2][3][4] which have been adopted at the Royal Observatories of Greenwich, Paris, and other meteorological stations.[5] They consisted of barometers, thermometers, psychrometers, and magnetometers, which registered their variations by means of photography. His method obtained the premium offered by the government, as well as a council medal from the jurors of the Great Exhibition. The account of the perfecting of these apparatus will be found detailed in the British Association Reports from 1846 to 1849, and in the Philosophical Transactions of 1847, 1850, and 1852.

Brooke also studied the theory of the microscope, and was the author of some inventions which facilitated the shifting of lenses, and improved the illumination of the bodies observed. He applied his improved methods to the investigation of some of the best known test-objects of the microscope. His name is, however, most popularly known by means of the Elements of Natural Philosophy, originally compiled by Dr. Golding Bird in 1839, who alone brought out the second and third editions. After his death in 1854, Brooke edited a fourth edition, revised and greatly enlarged, followed by a fifth in 1860. In 1867 he entirely rewrote the work for the sixth edition.


He died at Weymouth, 17 May 1879, and his widow died at 3 Gordon Square, London, 12 Feb. 1885, aged 86.

Automatic registration of instruments by photography

Between 1846 and1852 Charles Brooke[2][3][4] invented a series of self-recording instruments which used photography for the automatic registration of their measurements by using a coal gas light-source, mirrors and optics to amplify readings and a clockwork drum covered in photographic paper to record the results. These instruments included barometers, thermometers, psychrometers, and magnetometers, which registered their variations by means of photography. Charles Brooke's inventions obtained the premium offered by the British Government, as well as a council medal from the jurors of the Great Exhibition. The account of the perfecting of these apparatus will be found detailed in the British Association Reports from 1846 to 1849, and in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of 1847, 1850, and 1852. These self-recording instruments were adopted at the Royal Observatories of Kew and Greenwich, Paris, and other meteorological stations around the world. In 1859 a self-recording magnetometer[5] of United States manufacture, based on the designed of Charles Brooke, was built by the Coast Survey and the Smithsonian Institution at a magnetic observatory on the grounds of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. The Smithsonian report also noted that the Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory had a self-registering magnetograph in 1850, which was described by General John Henry Lefroy, in Silliman's Journal, May, 1850. While several observatories had these devices, none were in continuous operation until January 1858, when the self-recording magnetographs[6] at the Kew Observatory became fully operational. The instrument at Kew was a set of three separate devices comprising a Declination Magnetograph, a Horizontal-force Magnetograph and a Vertical-force Magnetograph.

What made the Kew Observatory instruments unique in 1858 is not that the observatory had self-recording magnetographs; other observatories had them; but that the observatory staff had built an infrastructure to support the continuous operation of the instruments. They had to build the instruments, provide spare parts, manufacture their own photographic paper, devise ways to regulate the coal gas flow which was the source of illumination, replace the photographic paper every 24 hours, develop the photographs and maintain rigorous quality control.[7] In 1858 you did everything yourself or it did not work. That is the real reason for the success of the Kew Observatory self-recording magnetographs.

On 28 August 1859 and again on 2 September 1859 the self-recording magnetometers at the Kew Observatory in London, supervised by Balfour Stewart, recorded two of the largest terrestrial magnetic storms known to Science. These events are now known as the Stewart Super Flare and the Carrington Super Flare,[8] the latter in honor of Richard Christopher Carrington who had the good fortune to observe the solar flare which occurred on 1 September 1859, with the magnetic storm reaching the Earth on 2 September 1859.

Published works

  • Elements of Natural Philosophy, editor of the fourth edition (1854) and fifth edition (1860), rewrote entirely for the sixth edition (1867)
  • The Evidence afforded by the Order and Adaptations in Nature to the Existence of a God. A Christian Evidence lecture, 1872, which was three times printed,
  • A Synopsis of the Principal Formulæ and Results of Pure Mathematics, 1829.
  • available in the Internet Archive
  • available in Google Books
  • available in Google Scholar



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