Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Camera Obscura & World of Illusions


Camera Obscura & World of Illusions is a tourist attraction located in Outlook Tower on the Castlehill section of the Royal Mile close to Edinburgh Castle. The original attraction was founded by entrepreneur Maria Theresa Short in 1835 and was exhibited on Calton Hill. Outlook Tower has been a museum since the late 1890s and is currently home to many interactive exhibits, including the original Camera Obscura.

In the early 18th century, the Edinburgh instrument maker Thomas Short leased some land on Calton Hill to display his instruments to the public. As his lease stipulated female relatives of Thomas could not inherit the building and its contents, his wife and children did not inherit it when he died in 1788. In 1827, Maria Theresa Short returned to Edinburgh from the West Indies claiming to be Thomas Short’s daughter and attempted to claim his "Great Telescope" for her inheritance. Despite strong competition from other parties, she received the telescope and set up "Short's Popular Observatory" in 1835, housed in a wooden and stone building next to the National Monument on Calton Hill. She exhibited many scientific instruments and kept her Observatory open till 9pm each evening.

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