On gizmos & gadgets & devices

Throughout the history of humankind, humans have always tried to make their lives easier & more interesting by inventing different tools & devices. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Musée des arts et métiers [http://www.arts-et-metiers.net/], which is located in the 3rd arr. in Paris. This repository of inventions was originally created in 1794 as a Conservatoire national des arts et métiers by L’abbé [Abbott] Henri Grégoire. Grégoire was a very interesting man & was quite unusual by clergyman standards [https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Gr%C3%A9goire]. The museum has a number of very interesting collections – arranged according to 7 themes which are: scientific instruments [my personal favorite!], materials, energy, mechanics communication, construction & transport.

The collections are housed in L’église de Saint-Martin-des-Champs – a church that has been converted into an exhibition space, and an adjacent building which contains the bulk of the museum’s collection. The church exhibition space showcases various larger examples of transportation & engines – large pieces that do not fit in the main museum space in the building next to the church.

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A prominent feature of the main museum are the various laboratory artifacts from Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794), a pioneer of chemistry.

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The exhibit also includes a couple of his protective face masks – see the image of one of them below. He did dangerous work & I wonder if he ever had to evacuate his lab because he concocted something toxic or explosive?

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There is something for everyone in this museum – some tool or device will tickle your fancy to be sure. Which ones were the most fascinating to me? 1. It was interesting to see things such as early slide rules [yes, I hate to admit it, but I am old enough to have used one in high school]…

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… 2. a cyclotron, or particle accelerator, from the College of France from 1937 [they were invented in 1930 by E.O Lawrence in the USA]…

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… 3. a Cray-2 supercomputer from 1985! It looks so dinky [compared to when I think about our parallel computing facility at IU today]…

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… 4. an early camera owned by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (below left) – inventor of the daguerreotype, a method that allowed images to be created on silvered copper plates. Other precision cameras e.g. from Zeiss are also featured (below right)…

… 5. Volta’s original ‘pile’ cell & an example of a commercially available battery made in Paris in the 1930s… … 6. a Remington typewriter from 1875 & a portable Corona version from 1920!

What was the highlight of the collection for me? It was surely Foucault’s Pendulum, which is housed in the church. The pendulum was first installed for a short period in the Panthéon in Paris in 1851, as an experiment conceived by French physicist Léon Foucault to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation [he originally got the experiment working elsewhere but needed a larger space to demonstrate the effects of the earth’s rotation convincingly].

The original brass-coated pendulum bob was housed here at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers for most of it’s life. Apparently, one day the pendulum’s cable snapped & the 28-kg lead bob crashed to the floor – damaging not only the floor, but the bob itself. The one on the pendulum today is an exact copy of the original. You can see the action of the pendulum in the video below – should work if you click on it.

There are a number of versions of Foucault’s Pendulum around the world [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foucault_pendulum], but this one is special because this was the original one [well at least before the bob was damaged & the cable snapped].

I decided that I would have to make a return visit to check out some of the other curiosities in more detail another time. There is so much to see in each of the 7 categories of exhibit. If you are visiting Paris, do stop in there and check it out. Some of the exhibits are quite whimsical…

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One last cool thing to check out is the associated Metro station – ‘Arts et Métiers’. Of the two Metro lines that service it, line #11 (the most superficial subway of the two) has been redecorated to channel the contents of the museum. It is a really handsome station. There is a lot of attention to detail – there is even a set of large cogs running down the center of the roof of the station. Very arty… … right down to the rubbish bins!

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