The Leslie Cube

Sir John Leslie focused much of his research on heat and meteorology between the years 1793 – 1804. He presented one of the most comprehensive material theories of heat. He found that heat arose as a result of the ‘trapping’ of light particles within the force pattern of an ordinary material particle. One of his inventions was the Leslie Cube, a device used for testing the relative emissive, adaptive, and reflective powers of various substances. Described by John Tyndall, one of the cube’s sides was coated in a layer of gold, another in silver, one in copper and the fourth in a varnish of isinglass. The experimenter would pour hot water in the hollow cube to measure the sequence of when the individual sides became hot and retained or lost the heat. They are still currently in use in university laboratories around the world.

The Leslie cube pictured here was recently donated to Archival & Special Collections in McLaughlin Library by Sandy Eliza McDanial, a bengal cat from Evanston, Illinois.