It had previously been thought that Daniel Fahrenheit only ever made two of the original mercury thermometers he invented in 1714, both of which are in the collection of the Museum Boerhaave, in Leiden in the Netherlands.
Now, however, a third turned up and
Christie's offered it for sale in their October 9 Travel,
Science and Natural History sale at South Kensington.
A household name during his lifetime and even more so in the
centuries since, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was a physicist,
engineer, and glass blower, best known for the temperature scale
bearing his name which is still used today in many countries, as
well as for his invention of both the alcohol and mercury
At 4½in (11.5cm) long, the brass thermometer, shown here, with
replacement tube was slightly smaller than the Leiden examples and
was signed Fahrenheit and Am∫t for
Amsterdam, where he lectured in chemistry from 1718.
Originally, the recently rediscovered thermometer would have
been used for scientific experiments to give accurate observations
around ambient room temperature.
The example at Christie's came from a private collection put
together in the 1970s and carried an estimate of
James Hyslop, scientific specialist at Christie's, said:
"Inscribed on the back by Fahrenheit himself, this is an
exceptional piece which has no precedent, and which I expect to
cause a real buzz with connoisseurs and institutions on every
continent around the globe."
In setting the estimate, Mr Hyslop took as his guide the c.1690
Dutch silver microscope by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the greatest
pioneering microscopist of the 17th century, which sold at South
Kensington on April 8, 2009, taking £260,000.
However, the mercury thermometer did not reach these kind of
levels and, as it was, it did not get to its low estimate but was
allowed to sell at £55,000.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%