Full research text

The following is the full text available within the interactive task for doing research on each candidate gallery object.

This could be exploited for an off-line version of the activity if you do not have access to an ICT suite.

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Anatomical model

Call an expert

Calling Lisa, Collections Manager at the Whipple Museum:

"Dr Auzoux made this papier mâché anatomical model in 1848 at his factory in Normandy, France.

The use of models in teaching anatomy has a long history, but before Auzoux these models were often made of wax. Wax models were beautiful, but they were expensive to make and couldn't be taken apart because the wax would be bent out of shape by handling.

Auzoux's models became incredibly popular because they were highly accurate, cheaper to buy, and stood up to repeated use by students. Every model came with a booklet that described each body part and how to dissect it.

This example is of an adult human, and comes with a manuscript which states that it was produced for an exhibition in Paris."

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Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux (pronounced "oh-ZOO") studied medicine in Paris in the early 1800s. As part of his studies, he did human dissections.

Auzoux noticed that there was sometimes a shortage of human remains for this kind of study and that, even if a body was available, it could only be used once before it began to decompose.

In response to this problem, Auzoux founded a company producing accurate anatomical models for use in teaching. The models were made of papier mâché. They were designed to come apart piece by piece, so that using them was as close as possible to dissecting a real corpse.

Due to the lack of real bodies, dissections had traditionally been carried out as public displays, where students could only watch the surgeon perform the dissection for them. Models like Auzoux's, however, allowed students to carry out the 'dissection' on the model themselves over and over again.

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Dissecting human remains is an important part of studying medicine, as it teaches us about the anatomy and functions of the body.

People today often leave their bodies to science to be dissected, but in Britain in the early 1800s it was very difficult for medical students to find bodies to study. In order to meet the demand for bodies, 'body snatchers' dug up graves at night and sold them to doctors and surgeons on the black market.

Then, in 1832, the government passed the Anatomy Act. The Act said that the bodies of executed criminals, and of poor people who died in hospitals and workhouses and were not claimed by their families, could be used for studying anatomy.

The Anatomy Act helped to ease the problem of bodysnatching, as did the increasing use of anatomical models which could be taken apart over and over again.

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Armillary Sphere

Call an expert

Calling Boris, a Consultant Researcher at the Whipple Museum:

The armillary sphere is a very ancient instrument which was used to study the heavens (the night sky).

In 1543 a book was published called (in Latin) On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. The author, Nicholas Copernicus, suggested that the Earth was not at the centre of the Universe: in fact, he said, we orbit the Sun. This overturned more than a thousand years of Earth-centred thinking about the Universe.

But the 'Ptolemaic' armillary sphere you're looking at shows just the Earth-centred model that Copernicus had criticised. And it was made in 1790, more than two hundred years after Copernicus' book.

So why make an object based on a theory that's already so out of date? It was made to teach students about astronomy. By showing the old view of the Universe alongside the new view, it helped people to understand the history of the debate.

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The first descriptions of armillary spheres are found in a book of astronomical knowledge published almost 2,000 years ago.

This book was later named The Almagest, which means The Greatest, and was such a comprehensive account of everything that was known about astronomy that people kept studying the subject from it for more than a thousand years.

The book was by Claudius Ptolemy, an astronomer who worked in Alexandria. Little else is known about him, except what we can guess from his name. 'Claudius' suggests that he was a Roman citizen, and 'Ptolemy' suggests that he was a Greek living in Egypt.

Ptolemy's book explained that the Earth stands still at the centre of the Universe, and that everything else rotates around it. 'Ptolemaic' armillary spheres demonstrate this theory.

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An armillary sphere is a model of the heavens.

Because it is a model, looking at an armillary is like looking at the Universe from the 'outside'. This is why the constellations of stars look backwards: in the night sky we see them from the inside, but on the armillary sphere they are shown from a 'God's-eye' perspective.

Armillary spheres, globes, maps and so on are interesting because they can reflect what people knew about the world (and what was beyond it) at the time they were made.

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Astrolabe

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Calling Jim, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"Excellent choice on bidding for this astrolabe! There's a lot we can learn from this object. It can help us understand the way that the people who used it saw the night sky.

An astrolabe is a portable device for solving practical questions in astronomy, such as working out the time of day or night. Islamic astrolabes like this one often have specific engravings on the back which would have been used to work out times for prayer and to find the qibla (the direction to face Mecca during prayers).

This astrolabe dates to 1526. At this time it was widely thought that the earth was at the centre of the Universe."

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Astrolabes are very versatile instruments. They can be used to calculate the time a star will rise in the evening, or the number of hours of sunlight on a particular day, or even the height of a tower or the depth of a well.

Astrolabes also played an important role in teaching astronomy. If a student could understand how an astrolabe worked, they would be able to understand how the stars appeared to rotate around the earth, conforming to the 'Ptolemaic' worldview.

Not everyone would have been able to afford a brass astrolabe in the 1500s. Owning such an object would have been a major display of wealth, as well as displaying a person's knowledge of astronomy.

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The invention of the astrolabe is hard to pin down. One story is that a man called Ptolemy discovered the astrolabe when his donkey stepped on and flattened a globe of the stars! This story is probably a myth.

Earlier Greek astronomers knew about the mathematical principles behind the astrolabe, but may not have built an object that we would today call an astrolabe. To add to the problem, we only know about some of their theories from people writing about them hundreds of years later.

The earliest surviving astrolabes are Islamic and date from the 800s. Their use quickly spread around the Arab world and Europe, and continued for about a thousand years.

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Atomic models

Call an expert

Calling Ruth, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"These are a nice example of mass-produced models for chemistry students. The models' makers, Griffin & George, had this name only between 1954 and 1957, so we can date the models quite closely. These models are very well known among people who studied chemistry at that time.

In general, there are two main types of atomic models: 'ball and stick' ones and 'space filling' ones. This is a set of space filling models, which were first described by Z. Stuart in 1934. Space filling models have some advantages over the ball and stick kind, because they accurately show the space taken up by each atom in a molecule. They can therefore be used to see whether the shapes of certain bulky molecules will prevent them reacting with others.

One disadvantage of space filling models, though, is that it can be difficult to see the structure of the whole molecule clearly."

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Models of molecules show the positions of their different atoms, more-or-less to scale and usually in different colours, and demonstrate how the atoms are bonded together.

Models are essential to chemistry teaching. An accurate model of a molecule's shape is very useful for students solving a problem. Chemists don't think that the models show what molecules 'really look like'. Instead, they use them as a useful tool for examining how molecules behave. You can actually feel the shape of groups of atoms, and work out how the molecule can move or bend.

Molecular models have also become a popular symbol of chemistry. Models like these are used in publicity photographs, TV programmes, and science stories in newspapers and magazines.

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The Courtauld Atomic Model Set No. 2 is a set of coloured plastic balls that represent atoms of various elements. The balls can be connected with metal links to make models of many different types of molecules, like acids and alcohols.

The set is arranged in 9 compartments in a wooden case with an illustrated label pasted underneath the lid. Because they are 'space filling' models, they help students and scientists think about the shapes of molecules more easily than 'stick and ball' models do. The set comes with some scale cards by Gallenkamp, to help estimate the sizes of molecules.

The colours of the atoms were chosen to look good in black and white photographs. Atomic model kits today have colours similar to these.

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Binocular microscope

Call an expert

Calling Boris, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"This microscope was made by Richard Ross and dates from around 1885. It was transferred to the museum from the Department of Botany at Cambridge University. Botany is the study of plants, and the microscope was an essential tool for examining these.

The Department of Botany was expanding during the 1800s to include many new aspects of natural history. Microscopes like this one were used for doing research, such as analysing plant cells and finding new plant species.

This microscope has two eyepieces, rather than just one. This means it's a binocular microscope, and this type was invented by a man called Francis Wenham. You might find out more about Wenham and binocular microscopes on the web."

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In the 1800s microscopes became cheaper and easier to make in large numbers. Because of this, more people got microscopes, and most were of reasonable quality.

It was common at this time for middle class people to have a microscope in the home. People would study the natural world as a hobby and would often collect insects or plants to look at under their microscope.

England was an important centre of microscope-making in the 1800s. Andrew Ross was one of the best makers in London, and made many improvements to microscope design. His microscopes were so good that they helped transform the microscope from a hobby instrument into an important tool for scientific research.

Microscopes became very common in university research in many areas, particularly studying living things and in investigating disease.

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Using microscopes for long periods of time could be extremely tiring, especially with early models. People using them needed to squint down the lens, and this often led to eye strain.

The binocular microscope was designed to solve this problem. You could look down it with both eyes, just like a pair of binoculars. Francis Wenham was a key figure in developing the binocular microscope, and designed at least 17 different types.

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Cyclotron Dee

Call an expert

Calling Ruth, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"This dee is part of the cyclotron built at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge in 1935.

Cambridge scientists already had ways to smash particles together, but to get useful results they needed to accelerate them to higher and higher speeds. The cyclotron's circular design enabled them to do this. This let them see what went on inside the particles.

This Cambridge cyclotron was the first one made in the UK, but Ernest Lawrence and Stanley Livingston at Berkeley in the United States had built one five years earlier, in 1930."

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The dee is named because of its 'D' shape. In the cyclotron, 2 dees sit in a vacuum. They are opposite each other so that they make a circle.

Particles are held in the cyclotron by magnets, and 'pushed' around by quickly changing the electric charges on the dees. As soon as a particle enters one dee, the charges are reversed and it is attracted to the other one. This makes it speed up along a circular path. The bigger the particles, and the faster they are already moving, the bigger this electric 'push' has to be.

When the particles are going fast enough, they spin out of the edge of the cyclotron and smash into a target.

When particles slam together like this, new particles are created, along with energy. The faster the particles are going when they smash, the greater the energy produced and the smaller the new particles created.

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The cyclotron is a piece of equipment used to study the structure of matter.

It works a bit like a slingshot to collide atoms together at high speed. Other, smaller particles are created in the collision, and physicists can detect them from the tracks they leave in a detector. By looking at the shapes of the tracks, physicists can tell the size, speed and charge of the particles. This reveals a lot about what is inside the nucleus of an atom.

The first successful, working cyclotron was only 11.4cm in diameter, but much larger versions were used for later experiments. The largest cyclotron that existed in 2005 was the 'TRIUMF' cyclotron in Vancouver, Canada, which was 18 metres across!

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Electric planetarium

Call an expert

Calling Lisa, Collections Manager at the Whipple Museum:

This Musser Electric Copernican Planetarium was made in 1962 for the World's Fair in Seattle. The Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space the year before, so space travel and the future were very popular themes during this period. The design and shape of this planetarium reflects that. It was made to look futuristic using glowing paints, new plastics and chrome handles.

Like earlier mechanical planetariums, this one shows the movement of the planets around the Sun. It was designed for use by teachers in class, and is motorised so that the planets move automatically over time. It has built in ultra-violet lighting so that the planets glow as they move around.

Using some removable extra parts the planetarium can also be used to model eclipses, comets, meteors and the movement of the tides.

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A planetarium is a model that shows where the sun and planets are, and how they move. It is not certain when or where the first planetariums were made, but it could have been as long as 2,400 years ago, in Plato's academy in Greece

In the 1500s the astronomer Copernicus had the idea that the Sun was the centre of the Universe - not the Earth, as people had thought before. Planetariums were very useful for demonstrating this new theory.

Planetariums are still used today as an aid for teaching. They can take a variety of forms, including animations on the Internet and moving projections onto giant domes.

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The Seattle World's Fair took place in 1962, a year after Alan Sheppard, an American, became the second man in space. This giant trade fair was called Century 21. Its theme was science, space and the future of the modern world.

The fair was open to all. It included exhibitions, rides, shows and merchandising. Futuristic buildings like the Seattle Space Needle and a monorail were key features of the Fair, which was seen by about 10 million people during the 6 months it was open.

Everything at the fair was futuristic and modern in style, and promoted the development of science and industry across the world. The Fair showcased new products and innovations from companies all over the world, and many produced commemorative objects for people to buy. These included the Musser Electric Copernican Planetarium.

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Eye model

Call an expert

Calling Ruth, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

This model was made in the 1800s to demonstrate how the human eye works.

The model can't be taken apart like some others can, so we know it wasn't designed to teach students about the different parts inside the eye. Instead, it shows how the eye forms an image in the same way as a device called a camera obscura.

You might find out more about camera obscuras in the library.

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Camera obscuras became extremely popular in the 1800s. They were used as drawing aids by artists, and were even installed in public areas as tourist attractions.

In a camera obscura light enters through a hole at the front and falls onto a projection screen at the back. There may be a lens to focus the light onto the screen, making an image that is sharp but upside-down.

The human eye works in the same way: light is focused through a lens onto the retina at the back of the eye, and the brain corrects for the upside-down image, allowing us to see things the right way up.

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Some eye models can show how glasses correct vision for people who are long or short-sighted.

For example, some Victorian eye models based on the camera obscura have two glass lenses at the front.

If you adjust the brass tube at the back of a model like this, so that the lens doesn't quite focus the image onto the screen, the image becomes blurry. Then, by putting one of the two glass lenses in front of the eye, you make it focus properly again. This is how you correct long or short sight.

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Globe and planisphere

Call an expert

Calling Dr Kemal, who studied this object in the Whipple Museum:

"This globe can tell us how mathematics was seen by people at the time it was made.

Astronomy then was a mainly mathematical subject. People were less interested in the Sun or the Earth being at the centre of the Universe, and more in mathematical principles that could be used for things like telling the time.

London is at the top of this globe. Therefore, when it is used in London, outdoors and in the right position, the Sun shines on the same parts that it is lighting up on the Earth at that moment. This means you can easily work out the time of day in other countries.

Its designer had some strange other uses for this globe, including a mathematical way to work out the heights of towers."

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The design for this globe is found in a book called The English Globe written by Roger Palmer, the earl of Castlemaine, in 1679. The globe was made by Joseph Moxon, a respected printer and globe maker of the time.

Most globes can rotate freely about their axis, but this globe cannot: it is fixed to its stand. This is because it shows a 'Ptolemaic' view of the Universe, where the Earth is fixed and the Sun and the planets rotate around it. Only four globes of this kind are known to exist.

Another interesting feature is that London is at the top of the globe; this helps someone using the globe in London to do a variety of astronomical calculations.

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Joseph Moxon (1627-1691)
Joseph Moxon was better known as a printer than as a globe maker in the 1600s. Nonetheless he did very well as a globe maker and seller, and invented the three-inch pocket globe. He sold his globes to many famous gentlemen of the time. In 1671 he was elected to the Royal Society, an exclusive scientific club. This was very unusual, because he was a tradesman, not a distinguished gentleman like the other members

Roger Palmer, earl of Castlemaine (1634-1705)
Born into the aristocracy, Castlemaine was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge. He was a devout Catholic and a supporter of the 'Ptolemaic' view of the world, which was favoured by the Pope and commonly accepted by people at the time.

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Gravity model

Call an expert

Calling Ruth, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"This model lets us see the effect of gravity around a black hole.

If you roll a ball onto the model - even around the edge - its path will curve towards and eventually fall into the deep hole in the middle. This is like a planet being attracted into a black hole by the force of gravity. The steep slope at the centre of the model represents the huge force of gravity near a black hole.

This model is actually one of a pair. The other model - the Sun model - shows the effect of the force of gravity around a star. This force is much weaker, and the slope at the centre of the Sun model is thus much less than the slope in the black hole model.

The Sun model shows how, when an object passes near a star, its path is altered by the force of gravity from the star. It may even be pulled into orbit around the star, in the same way that the earth orbits the Sun. However, the model does not show this quite right, because friction causes a ball rolled into the model to end up in the centre, rather than continuing round and round as a planet orbiting a star might.

Both these models were owned by Stephen Hawking before they came to the museum."

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Black holes are the last stage in the life-cycle of stars that are at least 10 to 15 times bigger than the Sun. They form when a star collapses because of gravity and becomes extremely dense.

Gravity is the natural force of attraction between all matter (we know it as the force that pulls us towards the centre of the earth and gives us the idea of 'up' and 'down'). The more matter there is, the bigger the force of gravity it creates.

Because a black hole is so dense, with so much matter packed into such a tiny space, the force of gravity around it is enormous. It is so strong that nothing can escape from it - not even light! We can't, therefore, ever actually see black holes.

We know that black holes exist, though, and physicists can work out where they are. As matter is sucked into black holes at close to the speed of light, it becomes extremely hot and gives off X-rays that can be detected.

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Stephen Hawking was born in 1942. After he finished school, he studied Physics at the University of Oxford.

He then went to the University of Cambridge to do research about the Universe and the basic laws that govern it (also know as 'cosmology'). He is now the 'Lucasian Professor of Mathematics' at Cambridge, which is the same position that was held by Sir Isaac Newton in 1669.

He has written three popular books about his work, including the best-selling A Brief History of Time, and has guest-starred on The Simpsons.

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Navicula

Call an expert

Calling Dr Katie, who studied this object at the Whipple Museum:

"I have recently done some research on naviculas. The number of surviving manuscripts about them suggests that they were more widely used than people used to think.

Some university researchers have shown, using modern maths, that naviculas were too small to be very accurate. But the people who made and used naviculas were probably not as interested in using them practically as we are today. Instead, they might have had a navicula just to show how good they were at maths! This is because, to use a navicula correctly, you need to understand the maths that describe how the Sun passes through the sky."

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The navicula is an altitude (height) dial, and by measuring how high the Sun is in the sky the navicula can help us tell the time of day. One advantage the navicula has over some other types of sundial is that the same instrument can be used anywhere in the world. It is also handily pocket-sized.

The origin of the navicula is unclear. The earliest examples are from the 1400s, and these are made of brass. However, it is possible that people made naviculas before this time out of materials that do not last as long, such as wood, and that these have not survived.

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The full name for a navicula is navicula de venetiis, which means 'little ship of Venice' in Latin. This is because it looks very like the sailing ships used by the Venetians in the 1500s.

Not very many naviculas have survived the centuries: there are now just seven of them in museums around the world. Three others are known to have existed in the recent past, but these were either destroyed in wartime or lost.

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Simple microscope

Call an expert

Calling Jim, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"So Ingrid thought this was a bottle opener, did she? This is actually a replica Leeuwenhoek-type microscope. (You could check on the web for more information about Leeuwenhoek).

It's important that this is a replica, and not one of Leeuwenhoek's famous original microscopes. Out of almost 400 that he made, only ten of the originals are thought still to exist. We know that Leeuwenhoek made his originals out of brass and silver. He gave some to his friends, while others were sold in 1747, 24 years after his death.

This microscope looks like a Victorian reproduction of one of Leeuwenhoek's microscopes. In the late 1800s people became very interested in microscopes, and many replicas of early examples were made. This replica is probably the work of an Englishman, John Mayall.

Just because it is not an original does not mean that it is not an interesting object. But you should make sure you mention that it is a replica in your label."

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Leeuwenhoek is an important character in the history of microscopes, although he wasn't the first person to use one. He became very well known for his observations using his simple microscope. Some of his well-respected friends in London published letters he wrote them about his observations and discoveries.

He started by looking at cloth under a magnifying glass. He went on to use his simple microscope to examine such things as flies, the reproductive cells of various animals, and even exploding gunpowder!

He discovered that that there were thousands of "tiny animals" all around us - in a single drop of water, for example, or in the "white matter" between his teeth! He observed that very small animals, such as flies, had complicated structures, much like larger ones. For Leeuwenhoek, this was evidence of the work of God.

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Modern compound microscopes always have at least two lenses, but a simple microscope has only one lens: it is basically a magnifying glass. This has several advantages. For example, it means that the microscope is very small and can be carried around easily. And it is cheaper to make than a compound microscope.

A Dutchman named Leeuwenhoek ("LAY-ven-hook") made many simple microscopes, and people came to his house to look at different samples through them. His microscopes were said to be the best there were, but Leeuwenhoek kept how he made them a secret.

The Leeuwenhoek-type microscope uses a tiny bead of glass as a lens. Samples to be viewed are placed on a needle, and this can be moved into focus by tightening a screw on the back.

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Telescope

Call an expert

Calling Ruth, a Project Technician at the Whipple Museum:

"The maker's name, Leonardo Semitecolo, is stamped on the outside of this telescope. Semitecolo made instruments of this sort in Venice in the 1700s. The phrase 'Jam Desimo, 1756' - probably a date and the owner's name - is also written on it in ink.

The telescope has four extending tubes made of paper covered in decorated animal skin, called 'vellum'. The lens mounts on each end are made of carved animal horn.

We can tell how this telescope was used just by examining its lenses. It was used for looking at things on land, such as spying ships in the distance. People could have looked at the sky with it, but it certainly wasn't made just for astronomy. You might find out more about this in the library."

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When they were first invented, telescopes were mostly used to look at things on the earth rather than in the skies. They were designed for seeing ships at a distance and spying on enemies.

These early telescopes had three lenses and one big problem: the images they produced were upside down. So, around 1750, a fourth lens was added to new designs to turn the images the right way up.

Astronomers using telescopes for looking at the sky didn't mind that their images were upside down, though. And because they didn't want the extra inaccuracies caused by an extra lens, they stuck with three-lens telescopes.

You can therefore tell the difference between telescopes used on land and telescopes used for astronomy by which way up the image is when you look through it.

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When astronomers realised how they could use the telescope, it dramatically changed the study of astronomy. Human senses had been greatly extended - people could now see further than they could with just their eyes.

The telescope caused a major change in people's perceptions. For over a thousand years, astronomers had thought that the laws of nature on the earth were different to those in the heavens. Yet observations made using the telescope showed that the laws were actually the same.

Telescopes really changed how people thought about the Universe they lived in.

 
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