(Dec. 11, 1781 - Feb 10, 1868)

Sir David Brewster was Scottish born in 1781, At a young age he was recognized as an outstanding scholar who was admitted for the study of ministry at the University of Edinburgh at the age of 13. Although he did not complete the prescribed degree, he was awarded an honorary M.A. and was licensed to preach in the Church of Scotland. Even though Brewster was never ordained a minister, he became a very devout evangelical Presbyterian. He believed in the unity of truth and felt that such unbridled speculation in physics had profoundly serious implications for religion. To him, "speculation engendered doubt, and doubt is frequently the parent of apathy or impiety." He was a brilliant mathematician and experimenter in astronomy, polarization of light and spectroscopy, but had a conflict with theories that required him to abandon his deep convictions about man's ability to know the world and man's duty to God.

The University training prepared Brewster as a skillful writer and editor which became the main source of income throughout his lifetime. Shortly after his career on the pulpit, he turned his studies and interests to optics although his income depended on his literary, rather than his scientific efforts. Brewster built sundials, microscopes, and telescopes and later, the stereoscope. His reputation on the popular level was established with his invention of the kaleidoscope in 1816 while experimenting with prisms and other optical tools.

 This tube-like instrument containing mirrors set at different angles to reflect the image of loose pieces of glass and various other colorful objects created symmetrical patterns when viewed through the eyepiece of the tube. Thousands of these devices were sold as toys or instruments of amusement in London and Paris within the first few months. He was immediately delighted with his fascinating device and named it using the Greek words:

kalos (beautiful) +

eidos (form) +

scopos (watcher) =



 During the early 1870's, Charles Green Bush began developing kaleidoscopes in the United States. His parlor type scopes of 1873 were the trend setters of that era and very profitable for Bush. These scopes are sought after as collectors items even today. Cozy Baker, ‘First Lady of Kaleidoscopes,' founded the Brewster Society in 1986 to provide communication among artists, designers, retailers, collectors, and lovers of kaleidoscopes throughout the world.

In recent years, the kaleidoscope has again gained renewed popularity as an object of interest to collectors and those who simply appreciate the beauty and creative array of its many designs.


The interior of a kaleidoscope can consist of 2,3,4 or more first-surface mirrors that run full-length of the inside of the scope. The angles of the mirrors will determine the number of reflections viewed. (Smaller angle = More reflections of object viewed.)

The quantity of mirrors determines the shape and style of the image seen. A two-mirror system will make a cathedral window or mandala-like image (circular design of geometric forms). There are no side reflections, only a single circular pattern. A three-mirror set will reflect the pattern throughout the inside of the scope. A four-mirror system will result in either a series of rectangular images, or a symmetry pattern that has a double center point.

A teleidoscope is exactly the same as a kaleidoscope except that the object case is a lens. The lens will show whatever object you are pointing the scope at and the mirrors will reflect that image. Sometimes a plain glass or crystal ball is used as the lens.

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