Brewster was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor and writer. From an early age he was interested in science and attended the University of Edinburgh from 1794. In 1799 he began contributing to the ‘Edinburgh Magazine’, becoming its editor in 1802. In 1808 he was invited to become editor of the ‘Edinburgh Encyclopedia’, and shortly after he began contributing to the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’. During his lifetime Brewster was regarded as one of the pre-eminent scientific figures. His interest centered on optics and he is associated with the invention of the kaleidoscope and the stereoscope. He is also credited with bringing the calotype to Scotland and in persuading his good friend, William Henry Fox Talbot, not to patent the process outside England.