Former history student awarded scientific instruments prize posthumously

Posted by ap507 at Mar 16, 2015 01:15 PM |
Brian Gee receives posthumous award for his research into philosophical instruments

Dr Brian Gee (1939-2009) has posthumously received the 2015 Paul-Bunge-Preis prize for his research into the history of scientific instruments.

Dr Gee was a part-time postgraduate student in the History Department during the 1980s. A former physics teacher and senior lecturer in education at Chelsea’s College of St Mark and St John, he wrote an outstanding doctoral thesis on philosophical instrument makers from 1750 to 1900 under the supervision of Emeritus Professor W. H. Brock.

While researching the thesis, Dr Gee discovered a lost archive of the optical instrument-making firm of Watkins & Hill in a disused air-raid shelter in Lewisham. He exploited this archive to write his post-doctoral book, Francis Watkins and the Dolland Telescope Patent Controversy (Ashgate 2014). The book concerns the role played by Watkins in one of the most significant legal cases ever to embroil instrument makers, namely the patenting of the achromatic lens in telescopes.

Dr Gee’s posthumous work, which was brought to press by Anita McConnell (another former History postgraduate) and Alison Morrison-Low (a former Museum Studies graduate) has been awarded the 2015 Paul-Bunge-Preis for an original work on the history of scientific instruments.

The award, administered jointly by the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker and the Deutscher Bunsen-Gesellschaft für Physikalische Chemie, was endowed in 1993 by the glass industrialist Hans R. Jenneman (1920-96) in memory of the Hamburg precision balance maker, Paul Bunge (1839-88).

The award will be accepted formally by Dr Morrison-Low at a meeting of the Historical Division of the German Chemical Society at Dresden in early September. The prize money will be given to aid historical research by the Scientific Instruments Society – a society to which Brian Gee left a legacy in 2009.  

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