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Database: David Brewster

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ACS DB David Brewster

Date of Birth: 11 December 1781.

Born the third of six children - the tastiest bit of a large-family sandwich - to God-fearing Scottish Presbyterians - who make really bland sandwiches - David Brewster was destined to orbit greatness like the space station orbits the Earth... or Europe orbits Britain. At the age of twelve, he was sent to the University of Edinburgh to join the clergy, which is exactly what we do with twelve-year-olds today, post them to Scotland so they'll stop annoying us.

But his congregation would have to wait. Brewster became fascinated by optics and was persuaded to continue studying the diffraction of light, touching on such exciting topics as reflection and refraction and are you still awake? Brewster quickly moved on to the laws of metallic absorption... oh, you're nodding off. Well, long story short, he invented the kaleidoscope. THAT'S fun, isn't it? Unfortunately, he didn't patent it quickly enough, and although it sold like gangbusters, he made very little money.

After he partnered with like-minded clergymen to start a scientific magazine The Edinburgh Journal of Science and was knighted by the Queen, he came out as a very vocal opponent of evolutionary theory, which just goes to show you that the clergyman who invented the kaleidoscope can't always get it right.

Like an old man still paying for dial-up internet access even though he's connected to a cable modem, Sir David seems to have been built for a different era, that of Galileo. Although maybe not even... after all, he did invent a telescope that looks precisely nowhere.

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