Sir David Brewster

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Brewster, Sir David,

1781–1868, Scottish physicist and natural philosopher. He is noted especially for his research into the polarization of light (the invention of the kaleidoscopekaleidoscope
, optical instrument that uses mirrors to produce changing symmetrical patterns. Invented by the Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816, the device is usually a hand-held tube, a few inches to as much as twelve feet in length, and looks like a small telescope.
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 was one result of his studies). He improved the spectroscopespectroscope,
optical instrument for producing spectral lines and measuring their wavelengths and intensities, used in spectral analysis (see spectrum). When a material is heated to incandescence it emits light that is characteristic of the atomic makeup of the material.
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 and persuaded the British government to adopt his dioptric system of lighthouse illumination. For 21 years Brewster was principal of the United College of St. Salvator and St. Leonard, in St. Andrews, Scotland, and in 1859 he became principal of the Univ. of Edinburgh. Included in his numerous writings are A Treatise on Optics (1831) and Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855).