The kaleidoscope optical instrument concept was first invented by the Scottish physician Sir David Brewster around 1817. Before Brewster was able to register a patent, the idea had been leaked by Brewster’s potential manufacturer to optical makers in London where it was widely copied and mass produced. In just three months around two hundred thousand kaleidoscopes had been sold in London and Paris; it was a phenomenon of its day and remains an optical wonder to this present day.
The term kaleidoscope comes directly from the Greek, Kalos, beauty, eidos, form or shape and skopeo, to look. Its literal meaning is the observation of beautiful forms, which is precisely the purpose of the South Charlton kaleidoscope.
The South Charlton Kaleidoscope is a parallel, three mirror, polycentral wheel kaleidoscope producing an infinite pattern which fills the entire visual field. It is the form deemed by Brewster as “uncommonly splendid”.
The mirrors form a perfect equilateral triangle with angles of 60 degrees and their long length gives greater infinity to the view.
The observed plane takes the form of a layered stained glass window using a vibrant mix of handblown and machine made stained glass, constructed in the traditional manner with lead calme. The glass panels, which progress through the spectrum of colours, are securely clipped and wired into a solid frame which in this case is a bicycle wheel, enabling the free rotation of the glass on an axle. Once the hand wheel is turned, the viewer sees a kinetic, ever changing image of colours and shapes which vary upon rotation and upon daylight quality.
The kaleidoscope has been specifically designed with pre school aged children in mind. It is sited in a woodland play space as part of the wider scope of facilities available to the children at the South Charlton pre school.
Children of any age will be able to interact with the optical device, changing its colours and speed and be immersed in viewing the wonder of the changing forms.
It will be an introduction to colours, an introduction to stained glass, to angles, symmetry, shapes, and to the trickery and wonder of mirrors. Its robust design makes it suited to outdoor use and safe for children to use.