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Medical Laboratory Polarimeter (E. Hartnack)

Mount Sinai Pathology Lab · Health Sciences

A black case with a hinged lid houses a polished metallic optical instrument and several associated components . The case has two catches on the front and slightly faded golden lettering on the lid.

The instrument is cylindrical with two eyepieces at one end. The upper eyepiece pivots relative to a ground glass plate. A scale is engrave on this plate that is read through the eyepiece. This upper eyepiece this indicates a point on the scale by moving relative to the scale along the axis of the main barrel of the instrument. The lower eyepiece, which views through the centre of the instrument, rotates along with the upper eyepiece. The cylindrical body of the instrument separates such that a glass chamber can be inserted into its centre.

The glass chamber is stored in a cavity within the case. Also in the case is the following:
– A slender metal rod with a screw end that attaches to a point near the eyepieces. This may be a handle that permits the find adjustment of the pivoting polarization mechanism.
– Two glass disks.
– Two rubber ring seals, one of which is split roughly in half.

Accession Number: 2023.MTS.10

Alternative Name: Polariscope

Primary Materials: Iron Alloy, Glass


Printed on the case lid in gold lettering: “Polarisations-Apparat// D. R. PATENTE// Firma Prof. Dr. E. Hartnack”
Engraved on the barrel of the instrument: “D. R. F.// Prof. Dr. E. Hartnack// Berlin-Steglitz// 4-816”
Engraved adjacent to the lower eyepiece: “Schachtstessung des Gesichtsfeldes”
Stamped on two areas within the instrument is the number “291”

Dimensions (cm):

Case: Height = 4.2, Width = 8.5, Length = 28.


This polarimeter is adapted to quantify glucose levels in a sample of urine. This is useful, for instance, in diagnosing and monitoring diabetes.


This artifact is in very good cosmetic condition. The outer surface of the case is worn, with three small chips along its upper edge. The polished metallic surface of the instrument is very lightly scuffed. The additional rubber seals provided with the instrument have hardened, and one is broken.

Associated Instruments:

Manufacturer: E. Hartnack. Potsdam, Germany.

Date of Manufacture: c. 1920s


This instrument was given to Dr. Ken Pritzker in the early 1980s by Leslie Heitler as a remembrance when Mr. Heitler retired as Lab Manager at the Department of Laboratories of Mount Sinai Hospital Toronto. It is uncertain whether the instrument was used at Mount Sinai hospital.

This artifact was donated to the University of Toronto by Dr. Ken Pritzker at a meeting of the Toronto Medical Historical Club on November 24, 2023.

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes:

  • Donated to UTSIC