Science Relics

The world of science is governed by logic and items within the science community are rarely kept when no longer useful, unless when deemed to be of historic value. Despite this there are still many so-called 'scientific relics' that are kept within the community just because they used to belong to someone important. Ever since working on Einstein's Sink I started noticing more of these kind of items at the university and other places that I visited. Sadly, there would almost never be an online description of these items and they would only be known by word of mouth. This page tries to remedy this. Per item there will be some documentation, images and links where possible.

Note: I define these relics as items that were once possessed or used by a famous scientist and have therefore been associated with them. I do not count instruments that were used to achieve discoveries, only generic items that gained value because of their association with their user/owner.
    Berzelius' wheelchair                        | Stockholm, SE
    Brahe's Uraniborg tile                       | Stockholm, SE
    Curie's Warsaw relics                        | Warsaw, PL
    Cannon's tea set                             | Cambridge, USA
    Edison's last breath                         | Michigan, USA
    Edison's Menlo Park Relics                   | Michigan, USA
    Einstein's Blackboard                        | Nottingham, UK
    Einstein's Blackboard                        | Oxford,  UK
    Einstein's Chair                             | Leiden,  NL
    Einstein's Chalk                             | Nottingham, UK
    Einstein's Pen                               | Leiden,  NL
    Einstein's Sink                              | Leiden,  NL
    Gauss' Hat                                   | Gottingen, DE
    Hubble's Basketball                          | Chicago, USA
    Van de Hulst's tap                           | Leiden, NL
    Kamerlingh Onnes' kettle                     | Leiden,  NL
    Rutherford's Potato Masher                   | London, UK
    Sagan's Checkout Slip                        | Cambridge, USA
    Newton's apple tree wood                     | London, UK
    Newton's House and Tree                      | Woolsthorpe, UK

Jacob Berzelius' wheelchair | Stockholm, SE

Jacob Berzelius is considered to be one of the founders of modern chemistry together with Robert Boyle, John Dalton and Antoine Lavoisier. He is best known for developing the modern system of chemical formula notation that showed both the electrochemical ingredients and proportions of the ingredients. The system abbreviated the Latin names of elements into one or two letter acronyms and applied superscripts to signify the number of atoms of each element present. Apart from the fact that we use subscripts now the system has not changed since he came up with it in the early 19th century. (e.g. H2O for water.) Besides this Berzelius also demonstrated that one can decompose chemicals by using a electrochemical cell and he is credited for discovering the elements Silicon, Selenium, Thorium and Cerium. Lithium and Vanadium were discovered in his lab by his students.

In the last years of his life Berzelius' health deteriorated, possibly due to the prolonged exposure to various chemicals during his life. As a result he was bound to a wheelchair for the last 7 months of his life and suffered from a faltering memory. He died at age 68 in 1848 after which the chair, along with other objects was donated to the now-closed Berzelius museum. The chair is made out of wood and covered with horsehair filled upholstery. This upholstery was replaced in 1900 after the original was eaten by moths. The rest of the chair is original. It is currently kept at the Archive of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
    Image: Archive Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences - Brezelius - Brezelius
    Berzelius's wheelchair

Tycho Brahe's tile | Stockholm, SE

Fragment of green glazed floor plate found in Uraniborg during a dig in a pit where the main building was once located. The tile was dug up in August of 1926 by V.CG. It measured 117x50x60 mm with a thickness of 22mm.
Brahe drawing
    Image: Archive Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Marie Curie's Warsaw collection | Warsaw, PL

Marie Curie is one of the most well-known scientists in history, famous for her work in physics and chemistry, for being the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize, and the first person to be awarded it twice. (In two different fields no less.) All of these firsts of course led to a large amount of fame and recognition to the point where, together with Einstein, she remains one of the few scientists that nearly everyone knows. Curie's sisters, Helen Szalay and Bronisława Dłuska decided to honor Marie by building a biographical museum dedicated to their sister. They started with collecting family souvenirs that were connected to Curie, ranging from photos, letters, papers, notes, tools, equipment to personal items and even furniture. These were then set up for display at in her hometown Warsaw. This museum full of scientific relics was however deliberately destroyed by the Nazi's during the 2nd World War, causing most of the items to be lost for good. Fortunately her letters had been published not long before this tragedy, lessening the blow of their loss. On top of that several smaller items were recovered and put on display in the newly rebuilt museum.

All of the remaining personal items used or owned by Curie are kept in a single glass showcase, showing a diverse cross section of her life. The items in this cabinet, listed from left to right are;
Marie Curie's Cookbook
Curie's Cookbook
Marie Curie's Nailfiler
Her nail filer
Marie Curie's glasses
Curie's spectacle case
    365 Obiadow - Digital archive
    Marie Curie Museum
    Marie Curie Museum - Wikipedia

Annie Jump Cannon's tea set | Cambridge, USA

Annie Jump Cannon is best known for coming up with the stellar classification scheme that we still use today. She studied physics and astronomy and graduated in 1884. After her studies she did some travelling and dabbled in photography and music, but could not let astronomy go and applied for a job at the Harvard Collage. She got accepted and became an assistant to Edward Pickering, who was then the director of the Harvard College Observatory. The group of assistants that she was placed in was entirely female and known as 'Pickering's Women'. This group focused for a large part on recording, classifying and cataloguing the spectra of all stars of 9th magnitude and above. This ambitious project was started in 1985 and still going strong when Cannon joined in 1896. During this period the project was ran by Willamina Fleming who had been classifying the spectra based on the strength of their hydrogen lines, giving them a letter between A and Q. Antonia Maury had created a new scheme where she subdivided the spectra into 22 groups from I to XXII and subdivided those groups based on the sharpness of the lines. In this scheme the B stars from Fleming's scheme would come before the A stars. After seven years of work, Canon published a catalogue with 1122 stars, using her own simplified scheme with only 7 stellar classes. She retained the original letters as used by Fleming which resulted in the seemingly random class names of O, B, A, F, G, K and M. (With P and S for Planetary nebula and unusual stars respectively.) Each class also had 10 subdivisions randing from 0 to 9. Eventually it was discovered that her classification was proportional to temperature and it became universally adopted. In her life Cannon classified more than 225000 stars and published them in the Henry Draper Catalogue. Canon remained an assistant for most of her life and was only officially appointed a faculty position in 1938, two years before retiring.

Cannon liked to serve tea to visitors with whom she would discuss work and other things in one of the back rooms on the top flood of Building C. One of her colleagues would bring tea in Cannon's personal tea set which she would serve to her guests. These weren't just any visitors, but people like Einstein, Hertzsprung, Eddington and Russel. Margret Mayall recollects bringing up the tea for these visits during an interview and described these sessions as a wonderful experience and a privilege. They would always be small, just with the guest Canon, Mayall and siometimes dr. Shapley. The silver tea set that was used during these tea sessions was engraved with A J C, standing for Annie Jump Cannon and consisted of a tea pot, a sugar bowl and a creamer.
After her death in 1941 the tea set along with her notebooks were left to the library and kept as a way to connect to the history of the Harvard Collage Observatory. It is possible to see the tea set upon appointment.
Tea set
Annie Jump Cannon's
tea set
    Image: John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard College Observatory
    The Henry Draper catalogue, 1932, pp10
    Encyclopedia Britannica on Annie Jump Cannon
    Oral History Interviews - Margaret Mayall
    Past exhibition on astronomers in popular culture

Thomas Alva Edison's last breath | Michigan, USA

Thomas Alva Edison is one of the worlds greatest inventors, being credited for many inventions that make our life possible as it is today, amongst which the light bulb, AC current, the phonograph, film and film cameras and much more. During his life he met and befriended many famous figures, most notably Henry Ford. (Inventor of the automobile.) The two were very close and spent much time together, especially during Edison's last years, when Ford bought the house neighboring Edison's and entertained the man by holding wheelchair races and other silly activities. At the 50th anniversary of the light bulb Edison was even quoted saying: "As to Henry Ford, words are inadequate to express my feelings. I can only say that in the fullest meaning of the term, he is my friend."

In the Henry Ford museum we can find a testament to this friendship in the form of a small glass test tube that was once given to Ford by Edison's son, a test tube that is alleged to hold the last breath of Edison. This tube was one of Fords closest possession, one that he kept privately until his death, a possession that was now known to exist until it was catalogued by the Ford museum in 1950. The tube was then forgotten in the depot for a few decades until it was rediscovered in 1978 and put up on display in the museum, where it is to this day. For a long time it was believed that, upon Fords request, Edison's last breath was captured in a test tube and sealed with paraffin wax in order to capture his soul, potentially for resurrection. An explanation that was not met with much skepticism as Henry Ford was a known mystisist who believed in the paranormal and reincarnation. However at a later date a letter was discovered between Edison's son Charles and the columnist Walter Winchell. In this letter Charles stated a different story about the tubes, it said that he had noticed a number of test tubes standing open in a rack in the bedroom in which his father had just died. They did not contain the last breath of Edison, but rather the air of the room in which he took his last breath. Charles had asked the attending physician to seal the tubes with a cork and paraffin wax, one of these was sent to Ford at a later date, while the remaining 7 were kept in the family. Note: Many sites state that there were 43 tubes instead of 8, however in a letter between Charles Edison to Walter Winchell from 1953, Charles states that there were originally 8, one of which went to Mr. Ford. It is currently not know if the remaining 7 still exist and if they do, where they are.
    Image: Low resolution Creative Commons from Henry Ford Museum
    Edison's last breath - Atlas Obscura
    Edison’s Last Breath (Or Is It?) - Slate
    Edison's Last Breath Lives in a Test Tube in The Henry Ford Museum -  Science Alert
    How Henry Ford Tried To Keep Thomas Edison’s Last Breath - Knoledge nut
    Letter Charles Edison to Walter Winchell - Henry Ford Museum

Edison's Menlo Park Relics | Michigan, USA

Henry Ford was a very close friend of Edison and idolized the man like none other. (see Edison's last breath.) One of the biggest comemorative efforts that he attempted was the 1928 rebuilding of Menlo park in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. This reconstruction was aimed to be a time-capsule of sorts to 'educate and inspire future generations'. This structure was not just a replica, Ford paid for thourogh archeological digs at the original site in order to reclaim any and all possible building materials that could be reused at the new site. His attention to detail even made him drive in several trucks of soil from the original site to spread around the new location, he even transplanted a tree stump. During the digs at the old location the excavators came across several pieces from the lab that most would consider garbage. Some pieces of glass, pottery shards, a pipe head and an old lamp. All of these were moved to the new location where they are still on display now.

Several years later in 1933 an additional dig was performed by Joseph F. McCoy, who found pieces of Edisons cables that were used for a electric light system demonstration.
Edison Relics
Edison wires
    Image: Low resolution Creative Commons from Henry Ford Museum
    Menlo Park Relics - Henry Ford museum
    All Menlo Park Relics - Henry Form Museum
    Edison's AC cable - Henry Ford Museum
    Sacred Relics: Pieces of the Past in Nineteenth-Century America - Barnett
    Menlo Park - Henry Form Museum

Einstein's Blackboard | Nottingham, UK

Albert Einstein was a very famous man by the 1930's, having published his theory or relativity 15 years prior. Being seen as a 'rockstar of science' he got many invitations all around the world to lecture. Einstein declined most of these invitations as he much preferred to be left alone to his work, usually only obliging invitations by close friends or colleagues. Fortunately for Nottingham University, Prof. Henry Brose was one such person.
Brose was an Australian physicists who moved to the UK around the 1920's and had a great bond with Einstein. The two met in an internment camp during the First world war and talked about their work. This is when Brose became interested in the theory of relativity and began working on it himself, translating many books and papers by Einstein into English. In 1928 Brose invited Einstein to give a public lecture in Nottingham. In the archives of Brose we can find the reply that Einstein sent, confirming his interest to come.
    Dear Dr Brose,
    I hope to be in England next year and will be prepared to give the public lecture requested by you.
    My definite acceptance depends only on Oxford University confirming its invitations.
    If it does not then it can be taken amiss that I accepted your invitation having turned down others in England.
    I should be able to give you an answer in the next few weeks.
    Friendly greetings.
    A. Einstein
In the end all was confirmed and Einstein would do an eight week lecture tour thought the United Kingdom. Einstein found this to be much too long and desired to cut it down to four weeks, but in the end the entire event fell through as Einstein collapsed with a heart problem not long before his trip.
Two years later another opportunity presented itself as Einstein was offered an honorary degree by Cambridge. He accepted, also seeing it as a chance to honor his promise to Brose. This greatly delighted the professor and resulted in a massive event being organised on June 6th 1930. The plan was that Einstein would arrive around 4.00PM, with three hours to refresh himself and meet some people after which the lecture would start at 7.00pm. A big crowd had amassed itself for the event, all anticipating the arrival of the physicist. The only problem was that Einstein was nowhere to be seen more than two hours after the agreed time, causing some chaos amongst the public, some fearing an accident. Fortunately this was not the case and Einstein arrived at 6:30 PM, only 30 minutes before the lecture was meant to start. The reason that he was so late was because he had stopped at Woolsthorpe to see Newton's House and tree.

Fortunately all was well and the lecture commenced as planned. Einstein started by writing down the names of the sections of his lecture on the blackboard and then let Professor Turner introduce him. The lecture was given in German with short pauses after each section where Dr. Brose gave short summaries in English. The packed lecture hall listened with full attention to his talk about theories of relativity.

After the lecture Einstein was thanked and many fine words were said, the event was then over just like that when he left the lecture hall for a well deserved meal. During this time it was announced that the blackboard would be kept by the university as a memento to this event and this is also when a student took the chalk that Einstein used.

Currently the blackboard is hanging in lecture room C14 of the physics faculty of Nottingham University. It is the blackboard on which Einstein wrote the section titles of the lectures. (In German.) It is possible to visit the blackboard on appointment.
Einstein's Blackboard in C14
Einstein's Blackboard
in C14.
Einstein blackboard sign
A plaque.
    Images by Scott Robinson
    Einstein's Blackboard
    Remembering when...Albert Einstein visited the University - and was late!

Einstein's Blackboard | Oxford, UK

Einstein used many blackboards in his life, but most of them did not get kept after he was done with them. The one in Oxford did though. The blackboard got used by Einstein during the second of three lectures at the Rhodes house in South Parks Road. Einstein visited in 1931 to give a Rhodes lecture and to recieve an honorary science doctorate from the university. Einstein's lectures were on relativity, cosmology and unified field theory and were given in German.
After the lecture the two of the used blackboard were rescued and later donated to the Museum of the history of science in Oxford by Sir. Wylie, the warden of the Rhodes house. Unfortunately one of the two blackboards was wiped by a cleaner and its contents for ever lost, it is nevertheless kept in the museums archive 'as a reminder of what a difference a small amount of chalk can make.'

The blackboard was actually instrumental in explaining an error in Einsteins work that had been seen in his 1931 paper. The blackboard repeated the calculation but in more detail, from this it appears that Einstein made a mistake when converting mega parsecs to cm which led to a density of matter that was too high by a factor of a hundred, a cosmic radius that was too low by a factor of ten, and a time span for the expansion that was too high by a factor of ten. These errors were corrected by Einstein in a later paper in 1945 that reviewed relativistic cosmology.
The blackboard is considered a 'mutant object', where philosophers argue that the blackboard gained its significance because of an external influence (e.g. Einstein writing on it.) rather than its ontology. This makes the blackboard both stronger and weaker as an object. Stronger because of its relation to a great scientist and inherent attraction that comes with that and weaker because it lost its ontological essence, that of being a usable blackboard. This essence could be regained by wiping it clean, but that would also take away its link with Einstein. Hence a mutant, socially created object that is Einstein's blackboard. Most other objects in this list suffer from a similar mutation, as most of them are not used for their intended task. e.g. playing basketball, keeping ones head warm or mashing potatoes.

The blackboard is one of the most iconic objects in the collection of the Museum of the history of science in Oxford and also one of the most popular ones. As of now (2018) it is on display in the museum.
    Brief summary of Einstein's Lectures
    Einstein's blackboard No. 2.
    Einstein's blackboard as a mutant object
    Einstein's error on the blackboard

Einstein's Chair | Leiden, NL

Leiden Observatory is the worlds oldest academic observatory that is still in use. During this time it was a hot spot to many astronomers and curious scientists. In its hay day the building was visited by many famous people, amongst which Chopin and Einstein. Einstein was not an astronomer and did not do professional observations. He did still find it interesting to observe with modern instruments and had a good opportunity to do so in Leiden, as he was good friends with Willen de Sitter, the observatories director. During his stays in Leiden he usually slept in Paul Ehrenfests' house, which was within spitting distance of the observatory. He visited De Sitter often to discuss cosmology and every now and then would take a peek through one of the telescopes on the roof.

In the dome of one of these telescopes was a blue observing chair that would be used by astronomers to comfortably look through the telescope if it was pointed up. This chair somehow became associated with Einstein because of the fact that he allegedly sat in it on one or more occasions. The chair itself is an antique and probably was bought in 1885 together with the 10" Repshold refractor. The oldest reference to the chair is from 1917, where it can be seen in a newspaper picture. This upper limit for age places it exactly in the right time frame for Einstein's time in Leiden, where he was special professor from 1920 to 1946, although he never came back after leaving for the US in 1933.

The chair is situated in the large dome of the Old Leiden Observatory and can be visited during a guided tour. These have to be booked via the website. If you just want to see the chair, you might be able to do that for free, but I do really advise taking the full tour. It is allowed to sit in it and take pictures.
The chair has been on national television twice, as part of an astronomy program, in one magazine and a few articles online.
Einstein's Chair 1917
The chair in 1917.
Einstein and De Sitter in 1932
Einstein and De Sitter in 1932.
    Willem de Sitter, Einstein's Friend and Opponent
    Einstein's Chair wiki (NL)
    Photo Einstein and De Sitter

Einstein's Chalk | Nottingham, UK

Einstein came to give a lecture in Nottingham on the 6th of June 1930. (Read more about it here.) The lecture was a massive success and drew many people who wanted to hear about Einstein's theories or just see the man in the flesh. After the lecture it was announced that the blackboard with Einstein's writing would be preserved by the university. This brought up an idea in Mr. Charles Harold Edlin, a research student at the department, who quickly secured the piece of chalk that was used by Einstein to write on the blackboard. He broke it in half and gave one part to Harold Atkins, then a science correspondent for the Nottingham Journal. Nobody objected and the two kept the chalk for many years.

Mr. Atkins sent a letter to the univeristy in 1980 asking if they were planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the lecture. Together with this question he offered the piece of chalk to the university, together with the story of how it was acquired. He also explained that Mr. Edlin had passed away some years ago and that his piece of chalk was now in possession of his son and that he desired to keep it.

The physics department accepted the chalk and organised an event where several historical talks were given about the lecture and Einstein himself. Mr. Atkins gave an eye-witness account of the lecture and formally presented the chalk to the physics department together with a signed affidavit. After this the chalk was stored in the Physics departments safe and kept there ever since. Upon requesting access to it for a picture the receptions reply was, 'It is kept in a safe and not taken out.' It felt like the plot of a mission impossible movie, but after contacting Prof. Michael Merrifield it turned out that the department does display it because of the difficulty to secure something so small and limited interest. Fortunately it did prove possible for him to access the chalk and take pictures.
Einstein relics
Nottingham Journal
9 june 2030
chalk letter
Letter page 1
chalk letter
Letter page 2
chalk letter
Signed affidavit
    Images: Michael Merrifield/University of Nottingham
    Einstein's Blackboard

Einstein's Pen| Leiden, NL



Einstein's Sink | Leiden, NL

Einstein's Sink is an antique sink that has been in use by Leiden Universities physics department since 1923. It was originally kept in the large lecture room of the Kameling Onnes Laboratory. During this time Albert Einstein was a regular guest there because of his special professorship and probably washed his hands in it after one of his lectures. Because of this the sink somehow became associated with him and became known as Einstein's Sink. In 1977 the physics department moved to their current location in the Leiden Bio science park and they took the sink, blackboard and tables from the large lecture room and installed them in the De Sitterzaal, the new large lecture room. The old staff insists that this was done as a way to save money and not because of Einstein's link to these items. Nevertheless a legend was born and a rumour spread saying that the sink was brought over because its sponge water inspired students.
In 2015 it was announced that the science faculty would move to a new building in a few years, but there were no plans of taking the sink to this new building. A petition was started by me to attempt to 'save the sink' by moving it to the new building. After about a month the petition had garnered about 200 signatures and was featured in two local newspapers and two national magazines. The signatures were given to the faculty board, who accepted the motion and stated that the sink would be relocated to the new building.

The sink can be visited in the Huygens building at Nielsbhorweg 2. It is in back of the large lecture room, just past Kameling Onnes' kettle. Just ask the guard that you want to see the sink in 'De Sitterzaal'
Einstein's Sink
The sink in 1944.
Einstein's Sink T-shirt
Merchandise based on the sink.
    Wikipedia page
    Einstein Sink merchendise

Gauss' Hat | Gottingen, DE

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss is sometimes called the greatest mathematician since antiquity or the king of mathematicians, and for good reason as he has revolutionised many fields of astronomy, physics and mathematics. It is said that he was brilliant from a very young age, finding a way to sum an arbitrary row of incremental numbers in mere seconds, where others would do it manually and take hours. His teacher allegedly tasked him with summing all numbers from 1 to 100, thinking it would take all afternoon. But Gauss simply added the last number to the first, the second last to the second and so on, getting 100 times 101, which when added and divided by two gives 5050.

Besides all of his brilliance, Gauss was also know for his fondness of black velvet hats. He always wore one as can be seen on his portraits. This hat is a so called 'hausmütze' and it is the hat that Gauss was wearing when found dead in his armchair in 1855. The hat was kept by the observatory shortly after, as can be seen in the death picture of Gauss. It is said that sometimes the hat is still worn by the staff.
The hat is kept in the archive of the Observatory library and is not generally accessible. However it usually does get taken out and displayed during open days and scientific events at the library. e.g.
Gauss and his hat
Gauss and his hat around 1840.
Gauss soon after his death.
Gauss on his deathbed 1855.
    Photo creator unknown
    Gauss portrait
    Gauss' later life. DE
    Exhibition 'GAUSSJAHR 2005'

Henk van de Hulst's tap | Leiden, NL

Henk van de Hulst is a well known Dutch astronomer, most famous for predicting the 21-cm hyperfine line in interstellar hydrogen and is considered one of the founding fathers of the field of radio astronomy. Van de Hulst spent most of his carreer at Leiden Observatory and worked closesly with Jan Oort with whom he made the first map of the Milky Way galaxy. He was also very closely involved with the formation of ESA and ESTEC. Van de Hulst is considered by some to be one of the last 'big names in astronomy' comparable to the likes of Oort and Hubble. This is made clear by the fact that various lecture rooms are called after him and even a tree has been planted in his honour on the grounds of ESTEC. His ex-libris is kept in Leiden Observatories library and even his old tap. This tap is said to have been collected from his garden after his death and is currently used as a paperweight in one of the observatories offices.
    Wikipedia obituary Hendrick van de Hulst
    Een boom voor Henk van de Hulst

Hubble's Basketball | Chicago, USA

Edwin Hubble is most well-known for his expansion law, constant and the telescope that was named after him. However, besides all that he was also a stellar basketball player i his youth. Hubble played for the University of Chicago in its Maroons’ Big Ten-champion basketball teams. While playig, his team posted two consecutive records of 24-2 in 1907-1908 and 10-3 in 1908-1909. This latter victory was deemed of such a magnitude that the basketball that was used for the match was kept afterwards, a basketball that was tossed around by Hubble himself.

This ball was initially kept as a sports memento to commemorate the victory of Chicago U Vs. Indiana U and later gained more fame as Hubble grew more famous himself. Exactly one century after the famed game the ball got even more notoriety as astronaut John Grunsfeld took it to space in 2009 during the last service mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Grunsfeld, a Chicago U alumni himself, was no stranger to bringing Hubble related items into space during his missions. Earlier he brought the cover of Hubble's Thesis and an eyepiece from Yerkes Observatory that Hubble had once looked through.
Deflating the basketball turned out to be quite difficult. The astronaut could not find any entry valve or way to get air in or out of the ball, even stabbing it with a needle multiple times did not seem to let out any air. In a series of emails between, among others, Grunsfeld and the Cosmologist Michael Turner we find Grunsfield describing the problem as follows. 'It's a cosmic mystery as to how the ball was filled, and now for me how to drain it,'. 'We couldn't find a valve to deflate it, so we will leave it to the rocket scientists to figure out how to flatten it,' Turner replies. Eventually Grunsfeld solved the mystery himself by, after obtaining permission, making a cut in the ball to let the air out. To his surprise there was no bladder or air, but the ball was filled with organic fibres.

After its space mission the ball was returned to the university and put on display in the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, where it still can be found today. Inside is a fairly large round lobby with various displays. The center of the main display is dedicated to Jay Berwanger's Heisman Trophy. Hubble's basketball is in a display case among the curved area surrounding the Heisman case. It is freely accessibly during the opening hours of the Gym.
Hubble's basketball
Basketball at the
Hubble Space Telescope.
    Picture by Borja Sotomayor, space picture by John Grunsfield used with permission of Prof. Michael S. Turner.

Kamerlingh Onnes' Electric Kettle | Leiden, NL

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes is known for discovering superconductivity and being the first to liquefy helium by cooling it down to roughly -270 C°. His former lab, which is now unfortunately used by the law faculty, is still nicknamed the coldest place on earth because of this feat.
Many possessions of Kamerlingh Onnes have been kept. Ranging from his notes to his cooling setups and other laboratory instruments. Besides all of this, his electric kettle was also kept and put in display by the physics faculty of Leiden University.
Kamerlingh Onnes is not known for his excessive fondness of tea or hot beverages, although some joke that it was needed when working in such low temperatures. It is not quite known who kept the kettle or why there is a little sign denoting its prior relation to Kameling Onnes.

The kettle is next to one of Kamerlingh Onnes' helium liquefier in the Huygens Laboratory at Nielsbhorweg 2. To visit it go left right after passing the reception towards the large lecture hall. (Called the 'De Sitterzaal'.) The liquefier is to the right of the entrance to the lecture hall, resting on a red oval platform. The kettle can also be found on this oval.

Ernst Rutherford's Potato Masher | London, UK

Ernst Baron Rutherford of Nelson was a prominent physysist in the early 20th century, most well known for his work on nuclear physics. More spesifically his discovery of the concept of radioactive half-life, the differentiation and naming of alpha and beta radiation and the discovery of the element radon. The combination of this work eventually resulted in the 1908 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Rutherford was born in New Zealand and did most of his education there at the Canterbury College after which he moved to Cambridge in 1895 to study under Thomsoon on a research scolarship. At the university he was called an 'Alien', as he was one of the first there to do research without holding a Cambridge degree. Here he did research on the detection of radio waves and even set a record on the longest distance. However when he tried to report on the experiment he found out that he had been outdone by Marconi. During the war he worked on submarine detection by use of sonar which earned him a knighthood and Hector Memorial Medal. Later he succeeded Thomson in Canmbridge and bacame the president of the Royal society in 1925-1930. Rutherford died in 1930 due to intestinal paralasys.

There are many schools, streets, awards and items named after him and his work, along with his belonging that are kept in various places. The most remarkable of these items is Ernst Rutherford's potato masher, a woorden instrument that he made for his grandmother in New Zealand. It is not sure when exactly he made it, but it is assumed that it was done when he was a child or a young teen around 1888. The item was donated to the society by the Rutherford family after his death and is being kept in the archives as a commemorative item. It is unknown if the item was was ever used by his grandmother, but it clearly was cherished.

The potato masher is held in the Royal Society archives and can be accessed in the same way as any other item. Replicas of the item can also be bought on eBay.
Rutherfords potato masher on ebay
On eBay
    Image by the Royal Society.
    Rutherford's Utensil - Periodic Table of Video
    Biography of Rutherford -
    Summary of Rutherford's Nobel prize.
    Rutherford's Potato masher replica on ebay

Carl Sagan's library checkout slip | Cambridge, USA

Carl Sagan is an American astronomer who is probably most well known for his TV-show 'Cosmos' and his research on extraterrestrial life. Amongst other things he demonstrated experimentally that radiation can create amino acids from basic chemicals and the assembly of the first physical message into space. (The golden record that got put onto the Voyager space probe.) Sagan also was the first to propose and calculate that the high surface temperature of Venus was due to the greenhouse effect. However, besides all of that Sagan was still an ordinary man who did every day things, like getting books at the library. His library checkout slip proves just that.

The card is from the Wolbach library of the Harvard College Observatory. It shows that Sagan took the 'Physics of planets' by Moroz home on the 28th of April, 1962. Sagan was 28 at the time and had not done any of the things that yet that he is known for today. The card was not seen as important at all at this point and remained in the book for years until being rediscovered in the 90's during a library cleanup. Sagan seems to have been the only one to ever check out this book.
The card can be viewed by request at the library.
Physics of planets
Cover of the book
    Image: John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard College Observatory

wood from Newton's apple tree | London, UK

    Wood from Newton's apple tree back from space

Newton's house and apple tree | Woolsthorpe, UK

Woolsthorpe Manor is Newtons birthplace and family home. He grew up here and later came back after Cambridge university was closed down due to a plague outbreak in 1666. At this location Newton did some of his most famous work, most notably on optics and gravity. Outside of the manor is an old apple tree that is said to have been the tree that inspired Newton to think about gravity. Currently the manor and tree are a very popular tourist destination, with a visitors center and small exhibition dedicated to Newton. The organisation calls for 'Science pilgrims' to visit the location and has a big selection of Newton merchandise for sale, including various apple products made from the apples of the tree. The tree itself got blown down during a storm in 1820 and a small craze caused people to collect the broken bits as mementos. However, the tree remained rooted and managed to regrow when it was put back upright. This tree is still around today and still provides apples each year. Many grafts have been taken from this tree and currently grow all around the world in peoples houses and university botanical gardens all over the world.

The manor is currently owned by the national trust and is open all year around. For a small entrance fee one can visit the manor and the tree and if you come at the right time of the year, perhaps you can see an apple fall yourself.
    Woolsthorpe Manor on wikipedia
    Newton's tree
    Image Newton's tree
    Be a science pilgrim
    Official page on Newton's tree

Last update 20/2/2019 by Alex