Project Description

31894  ADIE & SON, EDINBURGH, NO 1953.


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A very attractive improved sympiesometer by Alexander Adie & Sons.  The mahogany case, with attractive edge mouldings, is very plain and unadorned.  The silvered brass scale of the sympiesometer is signed for the maker ‘Adie & Son, Edinburgh, No 1953’.  Above the signature in block letters is the word ‘PATENT’ which refers to the patent taken out by Adie in 1818 which started the popularity of these small but accurate barometric pressure recording instruments.

The mechanism is of the usual form with a thermometer on the left hand side, albeit in this instance an upside down thermometer, and the sympiesometer tube next to it.  There is an adjustable wheel on the side of the case which enables the barometer markings to be moved up and set according to the temperature at the time of reading and the pressure is read off from the scale via the coloured liquid within the sympiesometer tube.  On the left hand side of the case is a knurled wheel that can be turned to the reading just taken and will therefore show whether pressure has increased or reduced when the following reading is taken.

Alexander Adie took out a patent for the sympiesometer in 1818 which lasted for 15 years, after which time sympiesometers were manufactured by many other makers.  It is believed he produced about 2,500 during a 60 year period, but many of them would have been produced in the early years when there was no competition.

During their early years these instruments were considered to be superior to barometers in marine use as explained in a letter from the Captain of The Isabella, one of the ships on Ross’ Arctic expedition of 1820 as follows: The sympiesometer is a most excellent instrument and shows the weather far better than the marine barometer.

Height:  24″ (61 cm)

Alexander Adie was born in 1775 and was apprenticed in 1789 to his uncle, John Miller, who was one of Scotland’s leading instrument makers during the eighteenth century.  They became partners in 1804 and traded as Miller and Adie until 1822, even though Miller died in 1815.  Alexander was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1819 for research and inventing ‘an improved air barometer’ (sympiesometer) for which he obtained a British Patent No. 4323 in 1818.

Alexander was located at 15 Nicholson Street, Edinburgh from 1822 to 1828 and 58 Princes Street between 1828 and 1835.  In 1835 his son John joined him in partnership and their instruments were signed Adie and Son.

Alexander Adie passed away in 1858 and the Royal Society of Edinburgh recorded the following tribute: Mr. Alex Adie’s . . . attention to business, with his skills as a mechanic, his quick inventive powers, led to his being employed by all kinds of inventors, to give their schemes a practical form.



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Adie & Son, Edinburgh, No 1953: SOLD

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