Edward Nairne is a skilled English maker of scientific instruments, active in London from around 1750 on. Chiefly known for his electrical machines, he also made mathematical, navigational, and geodesic instruments. Between 1774 and 1793, Nairne formed a partnership with Thomas Blunt his apprentice since 1760. He perfected the Cuff microscopes, making them more compact and easier to transport. In 1776, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Londo
Edward Nairne patented several electrical machines, including an electrostatic generator consisting of a glass cylinder mounted on glass insulators; the device can supply either positive or negative electricity, and was intended for medicinal use. In the eighth edition of the instruction manual for this device he claimed that "electricity is almost a specific in some disorders, and deserves to be held in the highest estimation for its efficacy in many others". He recommended its use for nervous disorders, bruises, burns, scales, bloodshot eyes, toothache, sciatica, epilepsy, hysteria, agues and so on. He also made improvements to the Cuff microscope, building it into a portable case and calling it a chest microscope.
In the early 1770s, Edward Nairne constructed the first successful marine barometer by constricting the glass tube between the cistern and register plate. The instrument was suspended from gimbals mounted within a freestanding frame to provide additional stability. Nairne’s first marine barometer was sent on James Cook’s second voyage to the South Pacific.
Edward Nairne was a regular contributor to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, and was elected a fellow of that institution in 1776. He enjoyed an extensive international reputation, and was in correspondence with Benjamin Franklin for whom he made a set of magnets and a telescope around 1758. Also on Franklin's recommendation, he was asked to supply instruments for the fire-damaged collection at Harvard.