A Kaleidoscope is a popular toy invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816. They look a bit like telescopes.

It is a fascinating toy that uses light and mirrors to reflect objects, such as beads, pebbles, or small pieces of glass. These items are free to move around inside the kaleidoscope as the end of the tube is rotated.

Different coloured patterns occur when children look through the eyehole of the tube and rotates the end of the cylinder, causing a new image to appear.

The coloured glass pieces act as objects and the inclined plane mirrors form multiple images of these glass pieces by repeated reflections, which look like beautiful patterns or designs.

Kaleidoscopes use the principle of forming multiple images by mirrors placed at an angle to each other. It consists of three plane mirrors inclined at an angle of 60° to each other.

The mirrors then reflect the movement of the small objects and create beautiful repeating patterns using the basic law of physics, manipulating light and reflection.

The Kaleidoscope in the picture has a picture of the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry on the tube. One of the pictures shows a typical pattern produced by the kaleidoscope. The name Kaleidoscope is derived from the Greek words kalos (“beautiful”), eïdos (“form”), and skopeïn (“to view”).


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More information:

Date 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Material(s) PlasticTinGlass
Item number MBPO372

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Did you have a kaleidoscope?
  • What pattern did it have on the outside of the tube?
  • Did you enjoy the many different patterns you could see through the eyehole?

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