Apparatus for optical experiments

Francesco Rossetti bought this device for the Cabinet of Physics of the University of Padua in 1881.

Maker: Jules and Albert Duboscq, active between 1879 and 1882

Date: 4th quarter 19th century


The instrument is made of a box containing a brass and glass disc with a small pivot, a similar disc with a slightly larger pivot, four glass discs with colored sectors, a small paper container with a black paper disc and a transparent sector, and a small wooden handle with a twine. One of the colored glass discs is missing.

The disc with the smaller pivot served as a basis and was placed on a projector. One of the colored glass discs and the disc with the larger pivot were then superimposed.  The twine was wrapped around the latter and quickly pulled: the colored disc started turning and this gave birth to continuous lines of colors and various optical effects.

In Duboscq’s catalogue, this instrument is described as an “Apparatus to show different optical phenomena, demonstration of the effects of the persistence of impression on retina. Mixture of colors, contrasts, complementary colors. Newton disc (Optical illusions)”. The apparatus was acquired by Rossetti together with a projector (Cat. Number 166) from the workshop of J & A Duboscq. The Duboscq firm actually took this name from 1879 to 1882, when Jules Duboscq launched a short collaboration with his nephew and son-in-law Albert Alexis Duboscq.


J & A Duboscq à Paris

Materials and techniques: brass/iron/glass/wood/paper

Dimensions: height 14 cm, width 15, depth 13 cm (box)

Related scholars: Francesco Rossetti (b.1833 – d.1885). Professor of Experimental physics at the University of Padua between 1866 and 1885.

Keywords: optics, pre-cinema

University of Padua, Museum of the History of Physics

Cat. Number: 601


  • Jules Duboscq, Historique & Catalogue de tous les instruments d'optique supérieure appliqués aux sciences et à l'industrie, Paris, 1885