The International Union of History of Science (IUHS) was established in 1947 under the banner of the International Council of Scientific Unions and the endorsement of UNESCO with the sponsorship of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences. The Commission des Instruments Scientifiques (today the Scientific Instrument Commission), was established in 1952 as one of the union’s first commissions.

The first major project of the new commission was to establish a committee to create a worldwide inventory of historical scientific instruments. The established commission, which united curators, historians, and scientists interested in scientific instruments, helped to develop the field further. Key individuals in the early years were Henri Michel, Francis Maddison, Maurice Daumas, I. Bernard Cohen, Derek de Solla Price, and Silvio A. Bedini.


Members of the Scientific Instrument Commission share a deep sense of loss at the sudden death of our past-President Dr Paolo Brenni on the night of 3-4 December 2021. We extend our condolences to his wife Andrea and his family.

Paolo’s contributions to the life and work of the Commission were immense and we remember them with affection and gratitude. He had an unparalleled knowledge of the historic instrumentation of the physical sciences and his enthusiasm for sharing this freely and generously was obvious to all. His engagement with instruments was unusual in spanning the theoretical and the practical: he fully appreciated their conceptual significance but at the same time was wholeheartedly engaged in demonstration as a tool of education in science and in history, and would undertake ambitious and demanding projects in conservation or, where appropriate, restoration, as well as extensive programmes of cataloguing for record or publication.

Further, Paolo’s friendly and welcoming attitude to others with – or without – shared interests, aided by his international practice and language skills, has contributed greatly to the openness valued and enjoyed by the Commission. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy lives on in our community.

Rechenmaschine Blaise Pascal, ca. 1650 © Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden