When you talk of scientific research and supplies, you are actually covering a huge spectrum and referring to devices and tools used in the study of both theoretical research and natural phenomena. This includes all equipment ranging from that used in the humble laboratory to huge and powerful telescopes placed in outer space to study the origins of the Universe.
So crucial is scientific research equipment and supplies to science that billions of dollars are spent every year to create more and more cutting edge equipment based on modern advanced technologies. The list of supplies being used for scientific supplies is almost never ending. Starting from the small handheld calliper that measures distances accurately to electroscope, from inclinometer to the spectrometer, there is a tool for everything that scientific research can possibly need.
Scientific research devices are not new age supplies. In fact, the astrolabe and the pendulum clock date back to Middle Ages and were called tools that have been developed to specifically investigate nature both qualitatively and quantitatively. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, scientific equipment and supplies were usually referred to as “natural philosophical” or “philosophical” instruments and apparatus.
Traditionally, in those days, scientific tools and devices were made by skilled instrument makers living in close proximity to institutions of research and learning and universities. They designed and constructed instruments for specific purposes when asked to do so. If there was a demand from several quarters for the instruments, large scale commercial production would be initiated. A surge in design and instrumentation was seen around the Second World War when there was a need to create advanced weapons as well as improve firepower of the existing ones.
In the modern era, structuring of scientific equipment, especially the analytical ones are created on advanced computer systems. The instruments too are integrated with and controlled by computers to increase levels of performance and functioning.
The more advanced equipment can be directly connected with a Local Area Network (LAN) and be used as a comprehensive laboratory information management system by a number of research scientists working simultaneously in different areas. Further, instrument connectivity can be enabled through the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This helps laboratories at different places connect their instruments to a network which can then be monitored from Internet enabled devices from remote locations.
Scientific instruments vary widely in shape and size, purpose for which it is used and complexities. For example, radio-telescopes and particle colliders can be mammoth in size and scope. On the other hand, nano technologies have brought down the size of surgical equipment where procedures done through a small hole instead of opening up the patient is now more of a rule than an exception.
If you are interested in the evolution of scientific equipment through the ages, you can drop by Harvard University’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments established in 1948. As of 2014, there are almost 20,000 priceless items of antique scientific equipment and devices there.