In early November, Webb’s Engineering Laboratory Technician and Machinist, James Swan, donated several mechanical drawings to the Herakleidon Museum of science, art and mathematics in Athens, Greece. Before their donation, Swan made all the drawings available to the Webb community by displaying each work in the campus Reading Room.
The drawings were rendered by a historically influential maker of scientific instruments, Laurits Christian Eichner. Eichner was born and completed his engineering degree in Denmark, but spent his professional career in Paterson, New Jersey.
Eichner’s work included telescopes and various other scientific instruments, many of which are still in service in laboratories and observatories around the world. During his career, Eichner studied the history of science, and was even commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution to create reproductions of many historically important scientific instruments.
After his death, the Smithsonian mounted an exhibit of his work and published a biography to accompany that exhibit.
Eichner’ mechanical drawings came into Swan’s possession through the state of his friend, Robert Deroski, a friend and collaborator of Eichner.
“I’m delighted to finally have an appropriate archive to place these materials that have been in my possession for years,” said Swan about the donation. “It was also great to have the chance to share the drawings with Webb students before they were shipped off to Greece.”
The museum’s founder, Paul Firos, and his wife Belinda, came to Webb to collect the drawings in person where they posed for a commemorative group photo with Swan. Swan was introduced to Firos by Connecticut art dealer, Jefferey deSolla Price. Prices’ father was an important scientist who collaborated with Eichner and Deroski in studying, and making models of, the Antikythera Mechanism. The Herakleidon is set to mount an exhibition on the Antikythera Mechanism in the upcoming weeks.