Moorish astrolabe, 1691
Collections of early scientific instruments, the cornerstone of the great European science museums, were eagerly sought by the new Museum of History and Technology, and in 1959 the Smithsonian acquired the Samuel Verplanck Hoffman astrolabe collection. "We have some wonderful collections of late American scientific instruments and technical devices," wrote Smithsonian Secretary Leonard Carmichael to IBM, asking for funds to acquire the collection. "We are, however, rather lacking in collections to illustrate the early development of man's thought in regard to exact measurement and calculation. . . . This collection as a whole is one of the finest ever accumulated of these typical scientific instruments and really early calculating devices as developed in Medieval and Renaissance Europe and the Near East."
Science and Scientists