Harriet Brooks

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Instruments can play various roles in science. Usually an instrument is developed as a means to an end: a drive to solve a scientific problem motivates the development of a new instrument. Ernest Rutherford devised his instruments because he needed ways to investigate the nature of radioactivity.

Sometimes the instrument is the end itself, when the main objective of the science is the building of the instrument. This was the case when the National Research Council chose for itself the goal of building an atomic clock.

In some cases, science doesn’t drive instrument-making, but the instruments drive science: innovations in instruments can lead to entirely new avenues of scientific inquiry. Nuclear reactors, in providing an intense source of neutrons, inspired a variety of new investigations that used neutrons to study the structure of materials.

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