University of Catania
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Collection of Antique Physics Instruments

strumenti antichi di fisica
Via Santa Sofia 64 - 95123 Catania

Scientific Coordinator: prof.ssa Josette Immé

The Collection of Antique Physics Instruments is based within the "Ettore Majorana" Department of Physics and Astronomy and comes as a result of a multiyear project involving the Ettore Majorana’s teaching staff and technicians who have been wholly committed to the restoration of antique instruments on display, bearing witness to the history of physics in Catania.

Much of the ancient instruments recovered pertain to a specific area of research, ranging between the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth: from electricity, magnetism, optics, acoustics, up to the first equipment that researchers needed for X-rays and radioactivity. It has survived to restoring with great care and expertise. In some cases, part of the instrumentation was used in teaching demonstrations of mechanics, solids and fluids, and thermology.

A rich collection that today includes 250 old, restored instruments (some other of them still to come) is on display by technical and aesthetic standards for the appreciation of workmanship and artistry of a high order. The oldest example is a microscope from the 1700s.

They all testify the unparalleled commitment of today’s physicists, and that of course of those from previous generations, to the tiring and far-sighted task of keeping antique instruments alive. It is no coincidence in fact that the first chair of physics, established in 1779 at the Royal University of Catania, was just that of experimental physics with an adjoining Physics Cabinet, at the time located in the headquarters university building.