The Whipple Museum includes a number of special collections transferred from other colleges and departments in the University of Cambridge, or held on long-term loan. Details of each collection can be found below.
The historic scientific instruments collected by Robert Stuart Whipple and donated to the University of Cambridge in 1944, forms the founding basis of the Museum's collections. The collection includes microscopes, telescopes, sundials, optical and navigational instruments. For more information see the page on Robert Whipple and the founding of the Museum.
This important collection of physical apparatus includes many of the instruments which were used in Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory during the latter part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. It includes optical instruments, electrical instruments, X-ray tubes, vacuum tubes and thermometers.
Through the Cavendish Laboratory, the Museum also obtained the Wollaston collection and the Hutchinson collection. The former consists of early 19th-century apparatus belonging to W H Wollaston, presented to the University by H W Elphinstone in 1876. The latter is a fine collection of slide rules presented to the University by Professor A R Hutchinson in 1939.
The Fitzwilliam Museum made a long-term loan to the Whipple Museum in 1973 of material relating to the history of science, including a number of sundials and a geomantic compass.
This collection formerly belonged to Charles Holden-White and was given to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1935. It includes more than one hundred sundials, astrolabes, nocturnals, quadrants and perpetual calendars.
This collection was purchased from the estate of Professor Harold Heywood of Loughborough. It is mainly made up of a very fine collection of microcopes dating from the late 17th century to the end of the 19th century. Other items include microscope accessories, drawing instruments, telescopes, optical instruments and an orrery.
The astronomical instruments from St.John's College Observatory were loaned to the Museum in 1951. The Observatory was erected in 1765 and closed in 1859.
This collection contains many fine calculating, drawing and observing instruments from Trinity College, most dating from the 17th or 18th centuries. Much of the material is original equipment from the Trinity College Observatory, which was the first official astronomical observatory in Cambridge and was built for the use of the Plumian Professor in the first years of the 18th century.
When the Company closed in 1974, it acknowledged its link with the Whipple Museum (whose founder was managing director of the Company) by donating its collection of instruments to the Museum. Most of the instruments are items made by the Company from the end of the 19th century until the 1960s. There are some important prototype items, and the instruments are accompanied by various photographic and printed resources, including a large number of the catalogues and pamphlets produced by the Company.
This was given to the Museum by Francis Hookham in 1987 and covers more than four hundred models of electronic calculators produced in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1996 approximately 1,000 botanical teaching diagrams came to the Museum from the Department of Plant Sciences. These diagrams were used in departmental teaching over the last one hundred and fifty years, with new ones added as necessary, until the 1980s. The earliest examples include items by John Henslow.
This collection of instruments was purchased in 1973 from the Steward family. It includes many items produced by the firm of J H Steward from the latter part of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. The collection is particularly strong in drawing instruments, calculating instruments and military instruments.