Liquid lenses for iPads and Mobile phones

 

This is the third variant of this article, which was written originally for the December 2013 issue of the Industrial Automation INSIDER Newsletter (www.iainsider.co.uk), an industrial publication which I edit: while not being a typical telescope story, it links in to the original pioneers of 17th Century telescopes.

So what is a liquid lens?

A liquid lens is a very small lens device now commonly used in iPads and mobile phones. The liquid droplet forming the lens has its shape changed electronically, using an electronic control system. This is able to change focal length (to focus) and change optical axis (for optical image stabilization, ie to reduce camera shake effects) – all within a few milliseconds.

Bruno Berge (EPO photo)

Bruno Berge (EPO photo)

The idea for this invention came from research on the phenomenon known as “Electro-wetting” by Professor Bruno Berge, in Lyon, France, with the original patents being issued in 2002. Prof Berge started working on liquid interfaces from 1991 at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, in co-operation with the Université Joseph Fourier of Grenoble, where he had two years previously done his PhD. Berge became fascinated by Electro-wetting, a topic first investigated by Gabriel Lippmann around 1900: Lippmann went on to win the Nobel prize for colour photography in 1908.

Berge believed that manipulating the shape of a water drop would also change the way it refracted light, which – for all practical purposes – would turn it into a lens. A drop of water affected by electro-wetting can function as a variable magnifying glass: so two clear, non-miscible liquids of the same density, one being electronically controlled water, can serve as a lens, depending on the curvature of the interface between them. If the second liquid is insulating (an oil), and not affected by the field, this curvature changes when a voltage is applied, enabling an image to be captured and focused (using a standard type of electronic feedback control system). The two liquids are sealed and held in a metal casing that is typically smaller than 10mm in diameter.

Where to use this?

Berge first approached Canon cameras with the invention, but attracted no funding. So with French state funding, and investment fund backing, Berge founded the company VariOptic in 2002. In 2007 they established a production line in China, and in 2009 the first industrial barcode reader with a VariOptic lens appeared on the market. In 2011, VariOptic was acquired by Parrot SA, and will focus on industrial applications: a separate company, Optilux, was formed in the USA to bring the liquid lens technology to smartphones and tablets. In 2013, Berge was selected by the European Patent Office (EPO) as a finalist in their annual review of patented inventions.

Machine vision manufacturer Cognex was an early adopter of the technology. Cognex has equipped both handheld and fixed versions of its barcode ID readers with VariOptic liquid lenses. Lattice Semiconductor Corporation has also announced a new video camera development kit, equipped with VariOptic liquid lens technology.

The name Berge is surely familiar?

The last recent technology step in lens construction was made by Peter Dollond in around 1760, for which he was granted one of the first UK patents: his recorded idea was to produce an achromatic lens by using a doublet (twin lenses nestled together) made of crown and flint glass, to be used as the objective (big) end of a telescope. Things were simpler in those days. His sister, Sarah Dollond, married Jesse Ramsden, and these two men were the best telescope makers in the world, working in the Strand, the Haymarket and then Piccadilly in London between 1760-1800.

One apprentice, who then went on to work for Jesse Ramsden, was called Matthew Berge, and he took over from Ramsden in around 1800 and worked in the Piccadilly premises from 1802-1817. Many years ago he gave your editor, via Ebay, a lovely sample of the type of nautical telescope he constructed there.

Telescope inscribed "Berge London - Late Ramsden"

Telescope inscribed “Berge London – Late Ramsden”

Who knows, maybe Prof Bruno Berge comes from the same lineage? Matthew Berge constructed these telescopes for use by the ship’s officers on the wooden sailing ships used by Nelson’s fleet, fighting at Trafalgar against the French and Spanish: what would he think today about these French-developed lenses housed in an iPad?

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The Dollond & Aitchison Collection of telescopes at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

 

This collection was originally held at the Yardley, Birmingham site of Dollond and Aitchison, a commercial organisation. Inevitable cost cuts and the retirement of the curator seemed to lead to the Museum being scrapped, and the collection held there was provided on permanent loan to the British Optical Association Museum, at The College of Optometrists, 42 Craven Street London WC2N 5NG.

The museum there can be visited by appointment, but it seems that the BOA is more interested in optical items, such as spectacles, rather than telescopes. I have yet to visit the BOA but will report back when I have had a look. A direct line to the curator there is 020 7766 4353 or use museum@college-optometrists.org.

The web summaries of the link between the two suggests that it shows “A collection drawn from the holdings of the former Dollond Museum in Yardley relating not only to the Dollond family and the company now called Dollond & Aitchison (D&A) but also to the historic companies acquired by the D&A Group and to the history of optics in general. This collection is held by the BOA Museum on long-term loan by agreement with Dollond & Aitchison Ltd”

Visit to Yardley in August 1994

Small scopes at Yardley

Small scopes at Yardley

Cabinet at Dollond Yardley Museum

Cabinet at Dollond Yardley Museum

I was lucky enough to be able to arrange a visit to the Yardley museum in Summer 1994. The curator at that time was Stuart Eaden-Allen, but he was in poor health at that time and not there during my visit. A small room was packed with examples of Dollond telescopes, and also Aitchison binoculars (Aitcheson & Co acquired Dollond & Co in 1927, but the combined group name adopted was D&A, as this was more acceptable to the public!) as well as a couple of Aitchison telescopes that surprised me. The Aitchison classic binoculars used a spiral style of body, supported by a scissor like construction, and were made of aluminium: many can be seen in the photo of the cabinet. What is surprising is that not many seem to be sold on Ebay, but then I don’t search specifically for binoculars. The collection had a large number of short, ie 6” long max, telescopes, that were probably used as opera glasses or to correct short-sightedness, as an alternative to spectacles.

Telescope display at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

The main idea I took away from the display was the clever wall supports used to display the telescopes, using two Perspex side supports with large holes. This construction I adapted for use at home, instead of the angled-peg type support I had used previously. What they did have were several shagreen and fish-skin covered telescope bodies, and one walking stick containing a telescope. The collection did not have any library table type telescopes on a stand (the science Museum went overboard on these), and singularly did not show any 6, 8 or 10 sided wooden scopes, which I think date from the late 1700s – and Dollond made a lot of these. They also had very few polished wooden barrelled scopes that I rather like. What I have only just realized from these photos was that there is one 8 or multi-draw telescope with a green shagreen cover in one display, in the photograph shown at the top of this page, and I have never found a Dollond multi-draw unit like that for sale since then. The best model of this style I have is made by Carpenter (of London) circa 1835.

Plus the photograph directly above here has a very old green card tube type telescope, presumably by Dollond too, and they are rarely seen in Ebay auctions!

The above pictures show the displays seen at Yardley, the photos were taken with available light because I could not find a switch to turn anything else on, in the way of lighting! I could not get any pics of the telescopes that were lying inside the horizontal cabinet, seen at the bottom of the first photo above!

The peg support display used at home

What follows below is a photo of the display of the telescopes I had collected by 1995, on a wooden peg support structure on the wall. From the bottom this shows a Venetian paper tube model; a Dollond 8 sided 4 foot scope; a Dolland (sic) two draw scope from Walney Island; a Ross very handy little scope apparently previously owned by Andy McNab; a Signal Regiment military spotting scope by Broadhurst Clarkson; the Carpenter multi-draw unit; and a John Hewitson (Newcastle) scope.

Home display of telescopes 1995

Home display of telescopes 1995

By dockraydiary Posted in Dollond

Troughton and Simms presentation telescope for Capt Robert Beattie in 1862

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Edward Troughton and William Simms formed a partnership in London, both of them having come from established families of mathematical instrument makers. Two Troughton brothers seem to have established themselves in this profession in London at the end of the 18th Century, having come from Cumberland, where their father was a farmer. Possibly Edward Troughton developed the interest in optical instruments from around 1804, when their offices were located in ‘The Orrery’ at 136 Fleet Street.

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

The Simms family had a similar history, but several branches of optical and mathematical instrument makers were operating in the early 1800s, and it was only William Simms who entered a partnership with Edward Troughton in 1826, to form Troughton and Simms. William seemed to do quite well, and from 1851-60 he was quoted as having a residence with its own Observatory in Brambleshaw, near Carshalton, Surrey. The partnership was successful, possibly with a lot of naval and Government work.

From 1826-43 the partnership operated from 136 Fleet Street, then moved to 138, and added other premises at the rear of 138, at 2&4 Peterborough Court: they stayed there until 1915, but added a factory at 340 Woolwich Road, Charlton, SE London. Then the company was absorbed into Cooke, Troughton and Simms.

The Presentation inscriptions

Because of the long inscription on this telescope, we have a record of when it was made, and why it was presented to the first owner. Such presentation units were popular in the 19th Century, sometimes from grateful passengers recognizing the skill of the ship’s Captain after a perilous voyage, sometimes, as in this case, from the Government, recognizing a humanitarian act in saving people or crew from a sinking ship.

Inscription on the first draw

Inscription on the first draw

Here the inscription reads: ‘Presented by Her Majesty’s Government to Captain Robert Beattie of the Schooner “Kelton”of Dumfries in acknowledgement of his humanity to the survivors of the Crew of the Schooner “Elizabeth and Jane” of St Andrews N.B [New Brunswick] whom he rescued from their waterlogged Vessel on the 23rd of August 1862’. The word ‘Vessel’ is written with an ‘f’ for the double ‘s’, as was common at the time.

Also on the single draw the makers name is engraved, ‘Troughton and Simms – London’.

The ships  

The Canadian ship involved, the Elizabeth and Jane, was a wooden Schooner of 108 tons, built in 1860 at St George [New Brunswick] on the east coast of Canada, then registered in New Brunswick.

The Kelton was built at the Kelton Yard on the River Nith (which flows into the Solway Firth south of Dumfries on the west coast of Scotland) at the premises of G & R Thompson in the village of Glencaple. It was quoted as an outstanding vessel, three masted, launched in around 1860 for the Sloan Brothers of Dumfries, and always commanded by Capt Beattie. The Schooner traded normally from the Dumfries area to Liverpool and the Cumberland coastal towns of Whitehaven and Maryport.

So it seems the rescue quoted on the inscription must have been made in the northern part of the Irish Sea: the Elizabeth and Jane could itself have been headed for Maryport or Whitehaven, which were major export ports for chemicals etc.

The Telescope

The telescope is totally brass bodied, but both ends of the main barrel and the first draw are silver plated. It was presumably manufactured in around 1860-62 by Troughton and Simms, and is 35” long when fully open, and 27” when closed up: the objective housing is 2″ OD. There is a sliding cover over the eyepiece lens, but no cover exists for the objective lens. The main body/barrel is slightly tapered, and retains its bare brass colour, ie is not plated: it would have been covered with canvas or a string binding when supplied. To simulate this and improve the hand grip on the barrel I have bound it with a natural jute string.

Where does this fit with other contemporary telescopes?

This is definitely a naval telescope, similar to the ‘Officer of the Watch models’ introduced later by manufacturers such as Ross, but it follows the pattern of other naval scopes from Dollond and others. It is easy and quick to focus so can be brought into use very fast.  It has a good magnification and field of view. It also has the flat eyepiece end of the 18th Century style of scope – it does not have the Victorian ‘bell-end’ shape of eyepiece. The sunshade is fairly standard, presumably to act as the words imply.

The sun shade

The sun shade

Return to the Family

This telescope was acquired in 2005 from an Ebay listing, and was my Accession Number 101. I have used it with the jute string binding I applied, which is fine, but this could be improved by someone more competent. It works well, as you would expect from a Presentation scope, silver plated, and from a reputable maker. It is a fine example of the Victorian approach, to honour someone who showed human compassion, when called upon. It is a fine example of this approach, with the presence of the inscription: there are not many more like this! In 2018 the telescope was returned to the descendants of Robert Beattie, as a family heirloom.

Lt. Rolfe’s Bianchi telescope from the Peninsular War, 1807-1814

Bianchi telescope fully extended

Bianchi telescope fully extended

This telescope is a 3-draw model with a wooden (veneered?) main barrel, the veneer appears to be a mahogany, but the whole main barrel is a wooden tube, possibly of a different, rougher wood. The main barrel has an OD of 1.75”. Overall length is 32”, and closed it is 9.25” – i.e. fairly compact. It has a slider to cover the eyepiece, which is better than average because it does not stick out of the side, when in use (as is fairly common, and uncomfortable). The eyepiece is a flat faced design. The sunshade covers half the closed telescope length, and has a very solid end cap which is a push fit.

Lt Rolfe engraved on first draw

Lt Rolfe engraved on first draw

The first draw has engraving showing the maker’s name as Bianchi of Ipswich, and on the opposite side “Lieutenant Rolfe – 9th Light Dragoons” all in script. The first draw contains all four eyepiece lenses. The brass looks to be lacquered. The brass connections to the wooden barrel appear to be made with copper pins, three at either end: because these pins are slightly proud the sunshade does not fully ‘home’ into the objective end of the barrel.

Made by George Bianchi

Maker's name engraved on first draw

Maker’s name engraved on first draw

George Bianchi was working in Ipswich 1805-1816, and seems to have been followed by Gaettano Bianchi, who was an optician there in 1830, and then George Henry, working there in 1844.

Because of the other inscription, this is probably by George Bianchi, and made in around 1806-7. He worked from St Clements Street at that time, and in 1816 at Westgate Street.

The 9th Light Dragoons

The following history of the 9th Lancers is taken from the Nottingham Journal + Nottingham Review: Mansfield in the News 1807-8, http://www.armynavyairforce.co.uk/9th_queens_royal_lancers.htm

“The 9th Dragoons remained in Ireland until 1803, and did not again embark for foreign service until 1806, when it formed part of Sir Samuel Auchmuty’s expedition to the River Plate, which they reached in seven weeks from England.  They shared in the occupation of Montevideo, on the River Plate, though not in its storm.  But no effort was made to replace the dead and useless horses, so that after a while the regiment ceased to be effective as cavalry, and were used, for the first and last time in their history, as foot soldiers, in the brigade formed by the dismounted troops of the 6th Dragoon Guards and the 40th and 45th Regiments of the Line, under Colonel the Hon Thomas Mahon.  To the dismounted cavalry was given the honour of attacking one of the central streets, with three troops of 9th Light Dragoons and four of the Carabiniers in the first line, and the other five troops of the former in reserve, and supported by two six-pounders.  They behaved with the greatest bravery, but the attack was, on the whole, a failure, and General Whitelocke abandoned the place.

An officer from the 9th Light Dragoons

An officer from the 9th Light Dragoons

They next shared in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition (Walcheren was a place in Holland, from where an attack on France was launched from the northeast). Here they lost 152 men from fever, and in 1811 embarked for Portugal, to join the other front in the Peninsular War.  At Aroyo de Molino they surprised General Girard, capturing 1,000 prisoners, the artillery, baggage, and stores of the force and taking General Brune prisoner. They took part in all the numerous skirmishes that occurred between 1811 and 1813, when they returned home with the permission to bear “Peninsula” on their appointments.  In 1816 they were renamed and constituted as Lancers, with, in 1830, the distinguished title of “Queen’s Royal”, in honour of Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV.”

Lt Joseph Rolfe

Lt Joseph Rolfe is listed on

http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/biographies/GreatBritain/Challis/c_ChallisR.html

which shows the card index system published naming all the soldiers involved in the Peninsular war in Spain. This war was from 1807-1814, a conflict between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal, for control of the Iberian peninsula, as a part of the Napoleonic Wars. It started when French and Spanish armies occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, its ally until then.

Lt Rolfe joined the 9th Light Dragoons on 9th October 1806, and was in Spain for the Peninsular War from July 1811 to April 1813. Another reference suggests that Lt Rolfe came from Mansfield near Nottingham (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/lost-mansfield/mnews/news1807.htm).

Where does this fit with other contemporary telescopes?

Compact when folded shut

Compact when folded shut

This telescope is different to the others made around 1800-1810. It still has the flat end of the 18th Century style of scope, but it is a very short unit compared to the larger single draw scopes, that were made for naval use. So the conclusion is that it was built as a compact unit specifically for use by mounted troops, carrying such for use on the battlefield, to see the enemy troop disposition. I suppose it makes full use of the fact that it has three draws to achieve this. Another comment is that this telescope was not meant for instant deployment – the officer would get off the horse, presumably lie down in the grass and peep over some cover or parapet at the enemy, so the time taken to remove the very solid objective cap, and open the slide in the eyepiece, and pull out the draws, did not allow for a quick look! Equally the lens covers would protect the glass components from dirt and dust. The sunshade would also protect the user from reflecting the sun’s rays from the objective lens and giving his position away – although I don’t know if they knew of this problem!

Collection History

This telescope was acquired in 2010 from an Ebay listing, and is accession number 134.  It came from a house clearance sale in Jersey. It is complete with a leather case, quoted to be the original.

I think it is a really unique item, with a traceable history linked to the Peninsula wars. It would have a value of £1200-1500.