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Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), FRSE

Photo credit: The Royal Society of Edinburgh

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Brewster never occupied a university chair, but became Principal of St Andrews University (1838–1859) and then Edinburgh University (1859–1868). He was a prime mover in the foundation of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He is credited with over 1,200 published works and many of his scientific papers appeared in the Society's Transactions and Proceedings. Sir George Airy described him as 'the father of modern experimental optics', a subject which he worked in almost every branch. He invented the kaleidoscope and his work on the dioptric lens was important for lighthouse illumination. Brewster's son, Colonel D. E. Macpherson, writing to Norman Macbeth from Belleville House, Kingussie, advised the artist: 'You certainly have painted the only likeness of my father, Sir David Brewster; all others, even one by Sir J.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh





oil on canvas


H 140.5 x W 110.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

posthumous portrait, commissioned, 1868

Work type



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The Royal Society of Edinburgh

22–26 George Street, Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ Scotland

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