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Experiment kits and instruction manuals around 1900 - continued...

Although these kits were designed for individual use, they were initially marketed as teaching aids, especially for work instruction at elementary and rural schools. In 1927, Wilhelm Fröhlich wrote a textbook tailored for use in work schools using the kits for mechanics, optics, electronics and chemistry (Fröhlich 1927). Simpler outfits, marketed as teaching toys [Lehrspielzeug], were developed in the 1930's and geared towards younger boys. These included the Elektromann (around 1930), Optikus (1933), Technikus (around 1935), All-Chemist (1932) and Radiomann (1934).


Fig. 8.: Kosmos "Elektromann" (5th edition 1934). Courtesy of the Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart.

"[...] [P]hysics and chemistry are not learned from a book like a poem, but through practical experience" (NL Wilhelm HS 1978-43/3). The kits were meant to function as a complete laboratory; at the same time, they were equipped with very simple devices in order to ensure that the first tests did not fail because of the experimental setup being too complicated. Many different instruments could be constructed using only a few basic elements. In some cases, as in the example of the optics kit, the case itself took on the function of an instrument, for example a telescope, projection apparatus or microscope. In his notes about the new version of the optics kit, in which a round pipe similar to the routine optical instruments was to be included, Wilhelm Fröhlich writes that the square cut pipes composed of two connected halves which made up the storage case had been requested by the company at that time "on the one hand, to make the distances between the parts, more specifically the focal distances clear and on the other hand, to avoid the costs associated with rounded parts, for example mirrors and apertures" (NL Wilhelm Fröhlich HS 1978-43/1). At the same time, because the students used the same basic elements in experimental setups with different functions, they were meant to learn to trace these phenomena back to the same basic principles.


Fig. 9.: Kosmos experiment kit "Optics" (n.d.). Courtesy of the Deutsches Museum, Munich.

Point your mouse to the image to see box contents. Included instruction manual: Fröhlich, Wilhelm. 1923. Anleitung zum Gebrauch des Kosmos-Baukasten Optik. 280 Versuche aus der Lehre vom Licht. Stuttgart: Franckh'sche Verlagshandlung.

Reference: Beek, Viola van. 2009. Experimental spaces outside the laboratory - Experiment kits and instruction manuals around 1900. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784), http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/references?id=art73&page=p0008