The apothecary’s art called for accuracy. Weighing scales were thus indispensable for the preparation of medicinal herb based formulae. The efficacy of remedies was closely linked to harmonious proportions of ingredients and the dose administered to patients.
The oldest known weighing scales date back to 3000 B.C. The basic structure of this weighing tool, with pans and a beam held up by rope remained unchanged until 33 B.C. when the Romans introduced a version fully made of metal. This is a scale with two arms of equal length.
Different versions exist for different uses, such as shop scales, heavy duty scales, jeweller’s scales, cereal scales, letter scales and analytical scales.
Until the 19th century, scales were predominantly hanging, fixed or manual. An example of the latter type is the pocket or boxed version, whose purpose was to ensure that the owner could not be cheated. Balance construction techniques evolved following the discovery of experimental chemistry in the mid-18th century, when an even more accurate scale became necessary for laboratory use. And so the balance scale made its appearance alongside the precision balance version, enclosed in a glass case to weigh powders protected from air currents.
Several types of scales from the museum collection can be admired in a showcase on the landing.