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Randall C. Brooks

Randall C. Brooks

Associate Fellow

Randall C. Brooks Randall C. Brooks

BSc (Mount Allison), MSc (University of Waterloo), PhD (Leicester University)

Randall Brooks retired as the vice-president, Collection and Research Branch and chief curator of the Canada Science and Technology Museums in Ottawa in 2011.  This followed almost 15 years as curator, Physical Sciences and Space at the CSTM and nearly 20 years in the astronomy department at St Mary’s University in Halifax.

Dr Brooks’s interest in the history of scientific instruments began in the last year of his physics and mathematics programme at Mount Allison University when he purchased four instruments being disposed of by the physics department. The interest lay dormant for 10 years but then blossomed with the purchase of an old telescope. Researching it and other instruments led to a change in career direction and an eventual move to CSTM.

Dr Brooks’s research has focused on assessing the precision of 17th to 19th century astronomical instruments using modern technology in an effort to understand the progress of astronomy better.  This, and his responsibilities for building the national museum’s collection of scientific instruments, led to studying what one can learn about the history and use of instruments–or any piece of technology — from the information gleaned from the object’s design, materials, finish, packaging, documentation, user(s), and creator(s).

Selected Publications

  • “The Impact of the Duc de Chaulnes’ Scale Dividing Techniques”, explanatory essay for a facimile copy of the Duc de Chaulnes’ 1768 mongraph, “Description d’un microscope et de différents micromètres destinés à mesurer des parties circulaires ou droites avec la plus grande précision”, Science History Publications, 2009.
  • “In Situ Preservation of Historic Spacecraft” in Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, eds.: M. Ann Garrison Darrin and Beth Laura O’Leary, John Hopkins University Press (with Bob Barclay).
  • “Development of Scale Reading Micrometers in the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries”, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, #98 (September, 2008), 8-23.
  •  “A Conversation with an Instrument Maker”, Rittenhouse, 21 (2006), pp. 65-92.
  • “Forty Years of Analytical Studies”, Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, #82 (September, 2004), 4-9.
  • “Krüger’s Final Camp in Arctic Canada?, Arctic, 57 #2 (June 2004), 225-232 (with John England, Art Dyke and James Saville)
  •  “Electron Micrographs of Spectroscopic Gratings”, Rittenhouse, 17 (2003), pp. 27-44.
  • “A Problem of Provenance: A Technical Analysis of the “Champlain” Astrolabe”, Cartographica, 36 (1999), 1-16.  This paper was reprinted in Geomatica, 55 (2001), 161-177.