Newton Balance

Title

Newton Balance

Subject

Chemistry

Description

The balance is contained in a cage of
red-brown wood, atop a glossy black
20mm base made of either ceramic or
stone, under which is larger red-brown
colored base. Some scuff marks of
normal wear and tear appear present on
the front face as well as in the top back
corners of the wooden cage, possibly
from its position against a wall. Three
tarnished adjustable feet hold the stand
approximately 20mm above the ground,
allowing for more precise measurements.
In addition to the adjustability of the feet,
there is a top-down level built into the
glossy black base with which the level of
the balance can be measured.
The main access way to the scale is
through a glass-paned vertical-lift door
approximately 390mm x 215mm. The
door is counterweighted and stays open
when lifted. A set of strings attaches the
door to the frame and prevents it from
being completely removed. On the
reverse side of the balance an identical
door exists and is available to use
similarly, however, it is not
counterweighted and must be held open.

Below the cage and beneath the glossyblack base is a wooden drawer of similar
dimensions to the door. A round-tipped
tarnished knob is attached via screw to
the front face which is used to pull the
drawer out. If desired the drawer can be
removed from the base entirely.
Contained within the drawer is two
brushes of unknown type with handles
made of worn, rolled plastic. Also
contained in the drawer is a wooden
object approximately 76mm x 25mm x
30mm in height. It is unknown the use of
this object, however it is a hollow trough
shape or wide U with a groove in each
vertical wall supposedly to rest an object
across. This wooden object is likely
composed of three pieces each glued
together in this formation. The contents of
the drawer also included a ‘Directions’
sheet with instructions on how to carefully
set up the balance, as well as general
information about the product. This
instructions sheet was in a distinctly early
20th century style and, though slightly
stained and discolored, was easy to read
and understand.
The physical components used for
measurement are mostly composed of
brass and aluminum, likely with some iron
or steel screws used to connect pieces.
The main mast of the balance stood in
the middle of the cage and formed the
stem of a ‘T’ shape with the other half of
the center weighing mechanism. This top
section is quite intricate with many parts,
where the function or purpose of some
remain undiscovered. A focal point of this
section is a piece of aluminum with a ten-
inch ruler, zero in the middle extending
left and right to five inches. Resting on
this ruler were very small, light, and thin
silvery square arches with a loop on top.
An adjustable bar running across the top
of the cage can be used to lift and move
these pieces across the scale and remainequidistant apart using two static prongs
attached to the horizontally shifting cage-
bar. Hanging from each side of the top
section of the ‘T’ are the plates for
measurement. According to the
‘Directions’ sheet, this balance had a
maximum accuracy limit of 200g. The
plates hang from S-hooks and, when not
resting on supporting fingers, swing
freely. Between the plates, screwed into
the base of the ‘T’, is an ivory-colored
plaque with the words “Made by Newton
Balance Corp./-For-/Arthur H. Thomas
Co./Philadelphia, U.S.A.”. Above the
words are hash marks with a slight
upwards curve and, similar to the ruler
above, the middle is the resting mark. A
downward needle extending from the top
section stops in front of these hashmarks
and as the scale is used indicates which
side is heavier, and by what amount. The
hash marks are approximately 10mm
apart with 4 sub-hash marks in between.
To use the balance, the first step is to
release the plates from their supports,
which is done by turning a knob just
above that which opens the drawer
counterclockwise. Once the rests have
been removed the plates hang freely and
the function of measuring can be
commenced. This process of
measurement was attempted with a
selection of objects, however, other than
a visual representation of how the mass
of one object compared that of another,
the ability to use this object as a means
of scientific experimentation was
unattainable.

Creator

Larissa Harris; Mark Franchi

Date

1900-1921

Language

American English

Type

Physical Object

Identifier

Newton Balance No. 228 - A.H.T. Co., No. 21318

Coverage

United States of America

Physical Dimensions

Base: 48.8cm x 10.16cm x 23.18cm
Cage: 41.59cm x 36.28cm x 21.59cm

Materials

Wood (for the cage), glass or hard plastic base, glass panels, brass, aluminum

Maker

Made by the Newton Balance Corp. for Arthur H. Thomas Co., Philadelphia, PA

Inscriptions

223 branded into right side, MCMT-9994 plaque screwed in on top

Location

607E Chemical Science and Engineering Building

Files

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Collection

Citation

Larissa Harris; Mark Franchi, “Newton Balance,” Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments, accessed September 24, 2020, https://ihsi.omeka.net/items/show/187.

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