Within the College’s museum collection are several types of microscopes from the 18th to 20th centuries. The designs of the microscopes vary, which reflects the progression and improvement of microscopic technology over this period of time.
Today, there are a variety of methods that enable us to visualize objects of microscopic proportions, from electron microscopes to light microscopes. However, the physical mechanisms of magnification were once a mystery to the human race. Before the invention of the microscope, the only observations of the body were those visible to the human eye. However, under the microscope a whole new world was discovered.
Several figures from history worked to improve the examination of microscopic structures, including Roger Bacon, Galileo, James Wilson, and Joseph Jackson Lister.
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A selection of microscopes
Seen here are several of the microscopes held with the museum collection. Starting from the left, there is the Pritchard-Type microscope, then the Culpepper microscope center back, the Steward microscope back right, and a small microscope furthest right.
Pritchard-Type Microscope c. 1830s
Pictured is an achromatic microscope manufactured by Andrew Pritchard, an optician and instrument maker of the mid-1800s.
Joseph Jackson Lister, Lord Lister’s father, was a wine merchant with an interest in the study of optics. His creation of a more accurate achromatic lens allowed for higher resolution viewing, and earned himself a fellowship in the Royal Society. Achromatic lenses focus light of different wavelengths in the same plane, hence producing a sharper microscopic image. This development in microscopic technology was truly revolutionary.
Microscope in a box
Microscope held within a wooden box, c. 1900s
This brass microscope is only 19cm in height, contained in a wooden box along with a series of slide samples.
The microscope slides contain samples of insects, with the slide labels being written in French. Examples include...
Wilson-Type Pocket Microscope
Wilson-Type Pocket Microscope, c.Unknown
The pocket microscope was designed by designed by James Wilson in 1702, not as replacement for other microscopes, but simply as an alternative magnification tool.
Samples to be examined were placed onto a slide containing lenses of different magnification strengths. The position of the eyepiece could then be manipulated by a screw-mechanism, allowing the viewer to see different components of the target object more clearly.
Culpepper-Type Microscope, c. 1800s
Also within the collection is a Culpeper-style microscope, whose design is not dissimilar to a Galileo microscope.
Edmund Culpeper was an English instrument maker in the late 17th century. Although having made simple microscopes before, his personal design included a compound microscope with a tripod stand. The tool was so popular that it continued to be manufactured for the next century.
Microscope Manufactured by J.H.Steward
Microscope, c. 1800-1900s
Pictured here is an example of a microscope most similar in structure to those used in modern times. It was manufactured by instrument maker, J.H.Steward.
Steward was a talented instrument maker, businessman, and optician. His company was originally founded in 1852, and sold a variety of products including pocket watches, microscopes, and calculating devices.