Ex-professor finds a home for cherished scale

Lab equipment has changed a lot since biological sciences professor Everett Merrill retired from

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Lab equipment has changed a lot since biological sciences professor Everett Merrill retired from teaching 25 years ago, but he’s still fond of the carefully crafted antique scale he used for decades.

Now people visiting Bassett Healthcare’s clinic at the Bassett hospital complex in Cooperstown will have a chance to admire the Becker chainomatic analytical balance and its finely made wood and glass case.

“I don’t know how old it is,” said Merrill, who recently donated the scale to the clinic.

He estimates it’s at least 75 to 100 years old. It’s hard to put a monetary value on it, he said.

“I have a lot of affection for the scale,” he said. “If you like lab stuff, you like the devices and what they can do, and their perfection. I also like the glassware.”

Merrill, 80, taught microbiology, biology, food sanitation and water chemistry at the State University of New York at Cobleskill from 1963 to 1992, as well as a few years in the 1950s.

“I had used it from 1957, and it was probably there for 50 years before,” Merrill said.

As newer, more precise equipment replaced it, the college declared it surplus and gave it to Merrill when he retired, he said.

He continued using it in his own water-testing business after he left teaching.

“It was the most precise scale that I had and was very, very good,” he said.

“I could put a [pencil] dot on a book, and I could weigh it,” he said.

The scale is now on permanent display in a collection of various antique tools, equipment and rural implements on the clinic’s second-floor reception and waiting areas, according to Bassett officials.

Merrill said he was anxious when he drove over the hilly roads from his Cobleskill home to Cooperstown to deliver the device.

“I sweated a little bit with every little bump and washboard on the road,” he said, because the scale was sensitive to the vibration.

As a former volunteer driver taking cancer patients to the hospital, as well as receiving what he believes was life-saving treatment there for his own meningitis, Merrill said he has an affinity for the clinic and its collection is a good home for his scale.

“A hospital is kind of a sterile environment, but this seems to fit in there,” he said.

Merrill said he hopes people can appreciate the craftsmanship and history of the piece and that the reflection proves soothing in some way while they wait for treatments.

The scale was designed by Christian Becker, a 19th-century German immigrant, who was considered a pioneer maker of American precision balances and scientific instruments.

The novel element of this scale, according to Merrill, is the use of a precisely adjustable chain, that provides the balance weight to measure to five places beyond a decimal point.

Digital devices now measure much more precisely, but in its day, the Becker scale was top-notch, Merrill said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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