Anna McPherson Collection


The McPherson Collection is comprised of antique physical instruments and apparatus dating from the mid-19th century to about 1920, which were used in teaching and scientific research at McGill. The collection was named in honour of Anna McPherson, a member of the faculty in the Department of Physics from 1940-1979, who preserved a great deal of the collection during her association with the department. Dr. McPherson bequeathed a substantial amount of money to the department, the revenue of which is used to support research programs and the Anna I. McPherson Lectures in Physics. Dr. McPherson’s field of specialty, optics, is well represented by a number of fine optical instruments on display, as well as a copy of the 1704 edition of Newton’s Opticks.

Other notable items in the collection include: an antique Ballou clock, of which only two were known to have been made; the first human x-ray; and a large wooden table used by the department for meetings before 1939. Funds for cleaning and displaying the collection come from Friends of McGill.


Rutherford Physics Building, room 111.


Visits by appointment. Virtual tour via Department of Physics web site:


Collection continues to attract scientists interested in the history of physics as well as the history of scientific instruments.


jean.barrette [at] (Prof. Jean Barrette)


Department of Physics

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