Book Review

Building Scientific Apparatus
A Practical Guide to Design and Construction, 2nd ed.

Moore, Davis, Coplan, and Greer
Perseus Books, 1991, 549pp


Contains practical information to assist beginners with building scientific instruments, including components, vendors, and construction techniques. Also has brief discussions of the theory. Biased toward apparatus used in physics, concentrating on vacuum systems, optics, charged particle devices, and electronic devices. The largest section, optics, has most of the basic optics equations, and a brief introduction to laser technology. The book would not be useful to chemists who wish to do surface modifications, create specialized materials, or create biosensors, or to someone who (for example) wished to build a linear amplifier or a high-voltage power supply. In fact, most of the apparatus is not described in sufficient detail to enable one to actually build anything. At best it may be sufficient to get someone oriented. This would be particularly helpful for students - neither engineering students nor science students receive much guidance on how to build anything nowadays.

Unfortunately, much of the book is hopelessly out of date. For example, the brief discussion of computer-controlled I/O discusses interfacing with the Commodore 64 and IBM PC. The book's references mostly date to the 1960s and 70s; the most recent one I could find was from 1986. The main value of this book is as an introduction to the workings of some older obsolete equipment that a student might encounter in an out-of-date laboratory or a scientific museum.

For building electronic equipment, a much better book would be Analog and Digital Electronics for Scientists.

Oct 6, 2001 Back