English manufacturers were instrumental in the development of microscopy, from the early 18th century to the 20th century. It all started in the early 1700s when Culpeper designed the model that was named after him and that will persist for decades.
From 1750 to 1900 there was feverish activity in the design and manufacture of optical devices throughout England, especially in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. In general, they are manufactured in small family workshops and have a short active life. Its activity ceases with the disappearance of its founders or lasts for one or two generations. They usually make a limited number of models, other times they only make the mechanical part of the device. They acquire optics from major manufacturers, especially Leitz, which has developed the Abbe condenser and achromatic optics. Finally, other companies become simple distributors who acquire the devices already manufactured and in which they incorporate their name. This explains the endless list of English microscope manufacturers.
Featured English Manufacturers
Henry Baker (1698-1774) is the one who first proposed in England the use of the microscope for scientific studies in his work “The Microscope Made Easy”, which continued in 1753 with the publication of a second “Employment for the Microscope”. He points out in it the problems that microscopes have, especially the Culpeper model, both in its focus and in the poor accessibility to the stage.
Andrew Ross working with Joseph J. Lister, from 1837 to 1841, introduced a series of improvements in the design of the microscope to transform it from a toy or a parlor oddity into an important scientific tool. Later, they founded the Royal Microscopical Society. But these efforts will not bear the desired fruit, thus according to Hartley (1983), the decline of English microscopy, which had been a world leader in the manufacture of microscopes, “is the consequence of its inability to evolve to manufacture exquisite models, of an extraordinary mechanical complexity and very expensive, but inappropriate for the daily work of professionals and researchers”. The societies that brought together British microscopists constituted exclusive clubs of wealthy gentlemen who discussed problems devoid of practical interest and dedicated to the fetishism of this instrument “per se”.
Powell & Lealand was a company that only had five employees and did not increase them, despite having a waiting list of more than a year to acquire one of its devices. Thus, his model nº 1, of extraordinary mechanical complexity, was manufactured without modifications for more than four decades. They did not mechanize production and continued without evolving with an artisanal elaboration until the end of the 19th century. They were ruined and survivor Thomas Powell died in poverty in 1924.
The Powell & Lealand company made only about six different models, but each piece that bears their name is a true work of art, perfect in every detail. Both for their exquisite mechanics and for the quality of their lenses, they are still in high demand today. His few devices acquire astronomical values at auctions, exceeding 120,000 pounds. Thus, on May 21, 2020, at an auction in London, the binocular model No. 1 of P&L reached the price of 37,000.00 pounds (GBP).
Some English companies were able to modernize and remained active until the middle of the 20th century such as Watson & Sons and Swift & Sons. But all the European brands will be surpassed by the German manufacturers Ernst Leitz and Carl Zeiss, who are the ones that survive, even competing with the Japanese optical firms that would appear in the 60s. It is a story similar to that suffered by the English manufacturers of automobiles at the end of the 20th century. Currently replaced by German and Japanese manufacturers.
See the following microscopes in the Collection: 1870 (# 61), 1870 (# 90), 1876 (# 95).
Cary– Gould, William Cary and Charles Gould.
See the following microscopes in this Collection: 1830 (nº25)
Abraham & Co
Abraham & Co. was the only microscope manufacturing workshop established in Liverpool and was in operation from 1817 to 1860, located on Lord Street. Among the models he made are the Cary-Gould type microscope, the Culpeper model and the Ross type with a Y foot. He also has a barrel type model, a copy of which can be seen in the Science Museum in London. Initially his name was Abraham Abraham, later he was called Abraham & Co. In 1838 he opened a major Glasgow optical store at 8 Exchange Square, in partnership with S.P. Cohen, in 1844 this company was dissolved. In 1841 he also settled in Manchester with Benjamin Dancer.
This association only existed for four years. He was one of the first manufacturers to sell microscopes with achromatic optics, although the lenses he used were made in Paris by Nachet. He finally marketed another model with a folding tripod foot, similar to Jones’ “most improved” model, (45th in this collection); a copy of it is in the National Museum of Scotland ref. 1979.45. In addition to microscopes, they manufactured optical devices of various types.
Adams George (1709-1773 y George Adams Jr. (1750-1795)
The former was a notable writer and extraordinary manufacturer of microscopes and optical instruments. He settled in London in 1734 on Fleet Street. He was an official supplier to King George III. He was succeeded by his son, George Adams Jr, who was also a renowned maker of mathematical devices. He invented a projection microscope, using an oil lamp skylight. His death was succeeded by his brother Dudley Adams.
This workshop manufactured some extraordinary mechanical, complex and delicate devices. Not suitable for daily work. Today they are extraordinarily appreciated and valued, as is the following that we can see in the images.
Bailey Jacob Whitman. Birmingham
American botanist born in Auburn (Massachusetts) in 1811, he was a pioneer in microscopic research. Jacob Whitman Bailey was noted for achieving significant improvements in the construction of microscopes and organizing an important collection of microscopic objects and algae, donated to the Natural History Society of Boston. He developed several publications for the American Journal of Science and various scientific societies, and 3,000 original figures for the volume of Microscopical Sketches. He passes away in 1857.
The C. Baker Co. for the manufacture of scientific instruments was established at 244 High Holborn in 1769 and was in operation until 1959. It would be Charles Baker (1820-1894) who gave it its period of maximum prestige. After his death, several generations of descendants would still follow him at the helm of the business. The company initially manufactured a series of high-quality devices, very representative, but although they were not signed, they were very recognizable. This is the case of models nº 61 from 1870 and nº 95 from 1876 of this collection. They made a portable microscope, not very good resolution, and models # 1 and 2 which were inexpensive and efficient models for the job listed below.
Later they made binocular models, very representative, like nº 95 of this collection. Finally, as early as the 20th century, they focused on making small, good-quality portable gadgets that have been very popular.
BanksRobert (see also Ellis Robert and Gould)
Robert Banks had his workshop in London at 44 Strand. He manufactured microscopes from 1796 to 1834. He is known for his portable microscopes, which are a modification of Ellis’s aquatic type. See microscopes 2 and 25 of this collection.
Beck & Beck
At the beginning of the 19th century, a great deal of experiment was going on looking for high-quality lenses for microscopes. They were urgently needed for scientific research.
A merchant Joseph Jackson Lister (1786-1869), whose son would become Lord Lister, discoverer of antiseptics, went to the City of London and became one of the leading innovators. His work on lens design, published by the Royal Society in 1830, showed that it was possible to make a good quality compound microscope. He established the first scientific basis for the design of microscope lenses. Joseph Lister asked James Smith, a manufacturer of optical instruments, to make a microscope to suit his new lenses. Lister apprenticed with Smith to his nephew Richard Beck, and when Richard became a partner in 1847, the company was renamed Smith & Beck.
In 1868 James Smith retired and the company was called R. & J. Beck. In 1873 Horace Beck was born, who would be known as ‘The Bead Man’. When he finishes school he joins the company, becoming one of the best designers of high quality microscope lenses. His interest in glass led him to study the history of glass and crystals, which later extended to all minerals, even fossils
He initiated the use of optical microscopy to study ancient stones and beads from famous archaeological excavations such as Ur, Nineveh, and Taxila. He also developed the first basic classification system from him. Investigating him remains critical today. Sadly, his health deteriorated and in 1923, at the age of 51, he left the company, dying in 1941. Beck’s collection is housed in the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. In 1960, the century-old company was taken over by Griffin & George Ltd.
The first version of the Star model was manufactured by R&J Beck in 1884. This microscope was received with great enthusiasm by potential customers for its simplicity, strength, portability, optics, and very reasonable price. Thus the prestigious British Medical Journal in its edition of October 10, 1885 said: «This model must surpass many of the microscopes that, manufactured abroad, have been spreading in our country in recent years.
English microscopes have always been of high quality and have achieved an extraordinary reputation. Although in recent years our devices have been too elaborate and expensive, this new model is a modern marvel of easy handling, great efficiency, solid construction and a low price ”.
Nº 12 ..no of manufacture .. s / n… .year 1.876.
No. 75… manufacturing number… 14,952… .year 1,883.
No. 75a. Manufacture number… 20,082… year 1,890.
No. 75b… Manufacturing No.… 21,173… year 1,895.
Extraordinarily robust, it was a very popular model that was used primarily in histology. It incorporated innovative systems such as the foot that ended in two arms that housed and allowed the optical tube to be tilted (clawfooted system) and the diaphragm condenser.
This collection shows nine models manufactured in 1856 (No. 5), 1857 (No.), 1858 (No. 55), 1865 (No. 63), 1872 (No.
Modelo simple de Beck&Beck uno elaborado en acero y el mismo modelo en latón
Como contraste esta imagen es la de un modelo de gran complejidad del mismo fabricante. Beck & Beck.
Cary– Gould, William Cary y Charles Gould
Ver los siguientes microscopios de esta Colección: 1830 (nº25) (nº 25a).
The Cary-Gould-Porter optical businesses
William Cary, 1759 – 1825
John Cary, 1754 – 1835
George Cary, ca. 1788 – 1859
John Cary, Jr., 1791 – 1852
Charles Gould, ca. 1786 – 1849
Henry Gould, ca. 1796 – 1856
Charlotte Hyde Gould, ca. 1797 – 1865
Henry Porter, ca. 1832 – 1902
The names of Cary, Gould, and Porter are associated in a microscope manufacturing company. Some learned from others and were related to each other. They kept the business running in London for over a century, from the mid-18th to the 20th century.
There have been numerous misunderstandings about the professional relationships between them. William Cary settled in 1785 in London at 182 Strand.His workshop produced numerous astronomical and optical instruments: sextants, azimuths, microscopes, telescopes etc. Charles Gould was his master manufacturer who was thirty years old when he made his first model of a microscope. His apprenticeship was thus carried out with William Cary and would succeed him upon his death in 1825.The well-known Cary-Gould model was actually created by the latter, who patented it. Its varied catalog can be consulted at the address http://microscopist.net.
Figure 9. Front page of The Mechanic’s Register, 1826, announcing Charles Gould’s new microscope.
Figure 10. In addition to the W. Cary shop, numerous other scientific instrument dealers sold Gould microscopes. Illustrated are excerpts from catalogues by (A) Edward Palmer, 1840, (B) Benjamin Pike, 1848 catalogue, (C) John Hewitson, 1847, (D) Bland and Long, 1854.
Microscopio portátil nº 2 de esta colección tipo Cary-Gould
Crouch Henry y William Crouch
Henry Crouch (1838-1916) was educated at the Smith, Beck & Beck company. In 1861 he appears with the category of apprentice. A year later in 1862, he settles down independently. His younger brother William Manning, who is an engineer, joins the shop set up at Regent’s Canal Dock, Commercial Road, London under the name H. and W. Crouch.
Initially they make models that are copies of those made by Smith, Beck and Beck. They are medium microscopes aimed at professionals and students (models in this collection #: 62a, 75a, 75b and 76), however they quickly focus on the manufacture of affordable quality binocular microscopes. It will be in this sector where they really stand out from other manufacturers, by developing more precise, complete and extraordinary models. (see models 92 and 93 of this collection). His brother William leaves the company in 1866.
The main specialized magazines and scientists of the time recognized the excellence of these binoculars. He exhibits them at the Royal Society of Medicine in London and in the United States where he will have numerous clients.
He achieved great professional and social success when he joined the Royal Microscopical Society in 1863 and the Quekett Microscopical Club in 1866. He expanded the business by opening a new store and moved the workshop several times, modifying the signature that appears on the microscopes as follows:
- H and W Crouch. Regent’s Canal Docks.ca.1862-1864.
- H and W Crouch.64 A Bishopsgate Street 1865-1866.
- H Crouch.54 London Wall.1866 a enero 1873.
- H Crouch.66 Barbican.1873-1907.
Later he began to manufacture smaller and more affordable continental-type monoculars. The foot of these is horseshoe.
He expands his shop from the initial eleven employees to twenty-seven. He begins the manufacture of petrological microscopes and cameras. However, this rapid expansion leads him to suffer financial problems, he auctions part of his stock and finally the business in several phases, which becomes the property of S.Maw & Sons. He continued to direct the manufacturing and until almost the end of his life he would continue to work.
The Henry Crouch signature is one of the most prominent in the history of microscopy. He manufactured the most varied models of microscopes, being especially remarkable his binoculars, as well as the extraordinary 93 and 94 models of this collection and the folding microscopes that he designed already in the 20th century. It went on to manufacture around 12,000 microscopes uninterruptedly between 1862 and 1907. Later, devices will continue to be manufactured until reaching 20,000, although there is no longer certainty that the manufacture corresponds to H.Crouch.
Henry Crouch’s Microscopes
His apparatuses have a foot or base type “bird claw footed”, a bird’s foot claw, with two pillars on which the curved, Lister type “limb” is articulated. This foot, Crouch only applied to large binocular and monocular microscopes. The other microscopes were built with the English foot, popularly known as the Crouch foot.
The tube containing the optics is moved on the stand, by means of a rack, with a rack and pinion wheel, fixed on the stand.
The fine focus system, «the fine adjustment», is typical English, using a wheel that moves a screw and is located on the side or in the front of the optical tube. This screw pushes a lever that moves the lens up and down. Crouch adopted the continental micrometer screw system after 1889, but continued with his 1882 English foot system.
Initially, it manufactured devices with a single objective and after two, mounted on a simple system of a rectangular plate with two objectives that move laterally, as can be seen in the figure that corresponds to device number 10. Later, they developed a revolving system. ; first with two objectives to go successively to three and four.
The stage plate is square. The mirror is attached to a cylinder fixed to the “limb” stand at the bottom, it moves together with it.
John Cuff (1708-1772) was a London-based microscope designer. His model was very original as the plate was fully accessible to the hands and had a very precise fine focus system. This “Cuff” model was imitated by numerous manufacturers in England and the rest of Europe.
Model “Cuff” manufactured by Dollon. The objective forms the bottom of a hemispherical mirror of reflection of the light denominated of Lieberkühn.
Cutts John P. & Sutton & Son
John P Cutts was a leading manufacturer and supplier of instruments established in Sheffield and London since 1825. In 1845 he formed a partnership with George Sutton and his son and was renamed J.P. Cutts & Sutton & Son. For the high quality of the optical instruments he received the title of Opticians to Her Majesty, Sheffield & London ‘. His business remained active until 1869.
Dancer John Benjamin
John Benjamin Dancer (1812-1887) was a famous manufacturer of optical and scientific instruments who was especially noted for being the inventor of microphotographs and the stereoscopic camera.
He is considered the father of microfilms although he never patented his invention. Between 1841 and 1845 he partnered with another famous manufacturer, Abraham, and began building microscopes. After his separation he continued to build instruments, including microscopes, much like those of Smith & Beck and Powell & Lealand. During his life, he assembled and sold a large number of microscopic preparations, which are highly valued today.
Dollond John (1706-1761) y Peter Dollond (1730-1820)
Microscope: 1835 (nº48a).
John Dollond was the son of a refugee Huguenot, a silk weaver in Spitalfields, London. John continued with his father’s work, but found time to acquire knowledge of Latin, Greek, mathematics, physics, among other subjects.
In 1752 he left silk weaver work to work alongside his eldest son, Peter Dollond (1730-1820), who in 1750 had opened an optical instrument manufacturing business. His reputation grew rapidly, and in 1761 he was appointed the king’s optician. His contributions to the development of achromatic lenses to achieve improved images were extraordinary. The microscopes manufactured during the active lives of the father and son are of a high quality.
In 1758 he published “Account of some experiments concerning the different refrangibility of light” in Philosophical Transactions, in which he described the experiments that led to the discovery of a method of constructing achromatic lenses.
In 1757 he succeeded in producing colorless refraction using watery glasses and lenses. A few months later he got the same results by combining glasses in different amounts. This would significantly boost advances in telescopes. The Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal in 1758. He also published two articles on apparatus that measure very small angles.
John Ellis f (1707-1776) was an English naturalist who resided for a time in Florida. He wanted a small portable microscope to look at the tiny aquatic organisms. The first prototype was designed by John Cuff. This design would become very popular and with small variations, before it was manufactured in England and Europe receiving different names (see models no. 2 and 25 of this collection).
Griffin John Joseph
J.J. Griffin started his business in Scotland in the late 1830s, and by the 1860s, he had a London store on Bunhill Row. He then he moved to Long Acre. Griffin in the 1840s traveled through Germany and Bohemia. He wrote a diary of his trip according to which we know that he contacted manufacturers in Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig and Prague. The company imported equipment between the 1860s and 1870s. Griffin also sold inexpensive apparatus for teaching chemistry. The Griffin company later became Griffin and George, a major supplier of laboratory equipment.
Jones William (1762 – 1831) y Samuel Jones (1770 – 1859)
Ver el siguiente microscopio en la Colección: 1805 (nº45b).
John Jones was a modest London manufacturer of microscopes and other small optical devices. It would be his sons Williams and Samuel Jones who would develop the business through a series of activities and innovations. William Jones was a manufacturer that achieved a great reputation counting among his clients the president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. He later formed a partnership with his younger brother Samuel, becoming the W. & S. Jones company.
William wrote a series of articles and books on the gadgets he built, giving lectures on them as well. In addition, he immediately bought, after their death, the rights to the works and books of two renowned opticians Samuel Adams (1750-1795) and Benjamin Martin (1705-1784). This smart purchase gave them the rights to these publications and most importantly, the blueprints of the models made by these two excellent opticians.
The Jones brothers made numerous editions of these books and also based on the schematics, especially Adams, reproduced their microscope models. In these books they included the catalog of their devices, encouraging readers to purchase them. In this way they made an intelligent promotion of their optical products, of which they reported their characteristics and prices. They also nominated the devices with their brand as they called them models “Jones Improved”, “Jones Botanical”, etc. In this way, they also recorded the designs, which were actually originally made by Adams and Martin. The quality of their products and these marketing techniques allowed them to increase their sales, which finally led them to be characters with a very healthy economy
This first model was called “Botanical” by Jones, although the original design was by Benjamin Martin. George Adams Jr. previously made the design of some of these models as can be seen (A) Illustration from George Adams Jr.’s 1787 “Essays on the Microscope”. (B) Illustration from the 1798 edition of Adams’ “Essays on the Microscope”, published by W. and S. Jones, where it was described as “Jones Universal Pocket Microscope”. (C) Illustrations from the “New Universal Pocket Microscope” by W. and S. Jones, ”, Volume 2, 1795. (D) Simple model of Jones’s Microscope with three lenses. Focusing is achieved by moving the object to be observed. These devices were not usually signed by the manufacturer. (E). Figures taken and adapted for nonprofit, educational purposes from internet auction sites. Taken from Brian Stevenson.microscope.net
Jones also designed a small-sized “pocket sextant” for navigation, which was a wonderful miniature version of the device. He also published an explanatory manual of its use: “The description and use of a portable Orrey”. His business was established at 135 Holborn from 1792 to 1800, later moving to 30 on the same street where it was active until 1860.
He made different models of microscopes, including a simple botanical model, the “Most improved” model, which is already a compound microscope, from which a small model and the larger model with a mobile mirror, which appears in this collection, were made. He also made a tiny pocket model with an ivory handle, which is number 32 in this collection. They are considered to be one of the best manufacturers of optical instruments in 19th century Britain
“Jones the most improved” model. The best Jones microscopes.
Left, image from the 1798 edition of George Adams Jr.’s “Essays at the Microscope” Note that in the illustration it was marked as “Jones.”
Centre and right, copies signed by W. & S. Jones.
It was described as the “New Improved Universal Microscope” in the Jones & Son catalog of 1787. This model was a variant of Benjamin Martin’s “Universal” microscopes and G. Adams Jr.’s “Improved Compound Microscope” Images adapted for non-profit educational purposes from auction sites on the Internet.
It is considered that they were excellent organizers and traders but that they actually delegated the manufacture to others who did it in their own workshops. In the initial period of the workshop, his father affirms that the devices are made in his workshop under his supervision by the artisans who work there. However, in the catalog edited by his son William’s in 1787 it states: “all the instruments made by him, or under his immediate inspection… (and)… the choice of his operators is the best ”. William’s 1789 letter to Thomas Jefferson, reprinted above, includes a note on the fact that he did not always directly supervise production: “I was prevented from giving that peculiar attention to the manufacturing process of his Thermometers, as I wished.”
Some of his workers may have worked in Jones’s shop, while others were contractors working from their own homes. Two examples are known to illustrate this common practice. Like when Thomas Jefferson commissioned him to make some devices for him and begged him to take the necessary interest and supervise them personally. He replies at the end of the job: “I have used my best efforts to perform these Instruments for you as I thought they would best serve your purpose. Since you expressed that you wanted the Astronl Quadt for an important purpose, and that instrument was initially limited in precision, I judged it best to send you the Reflecting Circle … I have no doubt that you will approve of the instrument and that it will serve your purpose. I have placed a Limb plate on the Sextant Box, which is a harder metal ”.
It has been found that some of his devices are signed with name and date by the artisans who actually made them, in places that are not easily accessible to the eye. The main craftsman who worked for them was William Hill Drake.
These two brothers remained single and had no children. They led a very comfortable life as much of their time was spent on their respective recreational estates in Brighton and St. Albans respectively and moved to London frequently. William was listed on the census as a farmer and an optician. Since they had no offspring at their death, the company finally closed in December 1859. In this collection there are two copies of these manufacturers: No. 32, which is a tiny portable folding microscope with an ivory handle, and No. 45b, which is the “Jones the most improved” model. Signature on the tripod of this specimen.
This English manufacturer (1804-1872), according to some authors, was the one who originally designed the microscope type drum or barrel “barrel” or drum “drum” and not Oberhauser. Martin did not use the term drum, but called it a simple reflective microscope.
Maw George & son
Microscope: 1870 (nº 61a).
Maw created his first company in 1828, establishing himself at 11 Aldersgate Street, London. It changed slightly in name as successive generations took over the sanitary supply business. It lasted in that location until 1940 when it was renamed Maw. S.Pharmacy Supplies Limited, and relocated to Monken Hadley, Barnet, England. This company actually marketed microscopes, but did not make them. Its sanitary products are represented in various museums in London.
Murray & Heath
Microscope: 1860 (nº43).
Robert Murray, 1798 – 1857
Robert Vernon Heath, 1819 – 1895
Charles Heisch, 1820 – 1892
Robert Charles Murray, 1839 – 1918
This company was founded in London in 1855. Although Robert Murray passed away two years later, Vernon Heath would sell the business in 1862 to Charles Heisch. Seven years later, he sold the company to the son of founder Robert Charles Murray, who was actually the one who had continued the company as an employee throughout this time.
Despite these changes in ownership, Murray & Heath was a major contributor to the manufacture of microscopes and other scientific devices. The company retained the name until 1882. Afterwards, it worked with John F. Griffin as its manager. It was active until the 20th century.
They essentially made small portable microscopes and inexpensive versions for students and hobbyists. These compact microscopes, which we see in the figure, are the ones that made it best known.
In the figure you can see the latest version of its folding model. The Jeremyn Street address is on the case for the period between 1866 and 1882.The legs are made of blued steel and the entire folded microscope fits in the 15 cm case. long.
Newton & Co.
Microscope: 1840 (nº58)
Frederic Newton was born in 1824 and moved to London where he apprenticed in John Dennis’s workshop. In 1850 he was admitted as a member of the guild of opticians and manufacturers of projection devices. He partners with his cousin William Edward Newton and the W.E. & F. Newton and are established at 3 Fleet Street. This relative was a descendant of Isaac Newton.
Frederic designed and manufactured new models. He obtained the appointment of Optician from the Prince Consort. He essentially made two models of apparatus, a simple one “for students with achromatic optics, made of brass and tiltable in every way.” The other more complex model was prepared for photomicrography. He passed away in 1909. His son Herbert Charles Newton continued the business until 1930.
Microscope No. 58 in this collection is an extraordinary specimen from this manufacturer, equal to No. 3 in this catalogue.
Parkes & son
James Parkes, 1786 – 1877
Samuel Hickling Parkes, 1817 – 1896
Samuel Thomas Hickling Parkes, 1856 – 1939
James Ebenezer Moulton, 1844 – 1924
The devices built by this Birmingham-based workshop carry different indications. Some leave the plate blank for distributors to enter his name. Others bear the name Parkes & Son and some also carry a small oval plate divided in half, with the inscription on the left side of “Trade Mark” and on the right an eye, which is the sign of this manufacturer. He published his catalog regularly from 1848 to 1903. It is a workshop that produced useful instruments for professional work, not large microscopes. See within the collection the copies No. 59, which is the “worker” model announced here, and No. 60.
Pillischer Moritz (1819-1893)
Microscope<: 1850 (Nº57).
Moritz Pillischer emigrated to London from Hungary in 1845. In 1849 he established his workshop for the manufacture of microscopes and other optical instruments at 398 Oxford Street in London. Later in 1854, he moved to neighboring New Bond Street at number 88. His devices enjoyed a just reputation for being quality instruments made at affordable prices. He obtained numerous awards at international exhibitions.
Powell & Lealand
This firm was founded in 1841 by Peter Lealand and Hugh Powell. Hugh Powell had previously manufactured and sold microscopes. The firm was established in different locations in London: 24 Clarendon St., Somerstow (1841-1846), 4 Seymour Place, Euston Sq., New Rd. (1847-1857), and at 170 Euston Rd. ( 1857-1905). The commercialization was in charge of Thomas Powell, son of the founder, who succeeded as responsible when he died in 1883
Among the models produced, No. 1 was the best in its production line. They made this authentic work of art for sixty years, although they only made 600 copies of it. The shop had only five employees, who did not increase despite the fact that there was a waiting list of more than a year and that its price was more than 187 pounds, the current equivalent of 21,000 pounds. The few copies that are currently up for auction can exceed prices of € 100,000.
The Royal Microscopical Society selected this brand together with Andrew Ross and James Swift as the highest quality manufacturers among English workshops.
According to B. Bracegirdle in his Notes on Modern Microscope Manufacturers, Powell & Lealand ceased production in 1900. But in 1904, Charles Perry (the master of the P&L workshop) began working at C. Baker’s factory where they continued to manufacture devices under the direction of Thomas Powell until 1914.
Among the models produced, the No. 1 was the best within its production line, this authentic work of art was manufactured for sixty years.
The Royal Microscopical Society selected this brand together with Andrew Ross and James Swift as the highest quality brands among English manufacture
One of the best-known microscope manufacturers in London was Andrew Ross who began making microscopes in 1830 and collaborated with J.J. Lister (1786-1869), inventor of a new design of achromatic lenses for the microscope. Ross along with Lister were the founders of the London Microscope Society (later the Royal Microscopical Society).
Ross made a number of improvements in the design of microscopes, and his latest model won first prize at the World’s Fair in 1851.
During the period 1837 to 1841, together with Lister, he worked to transform the microscope, from a toy or a parlor oddity, into an important scientific tool.
Andrew Ross made his first monocular compound microscope between 1841 and 1842. Ross’s microscopes, unlike the ones he built with Lister, already carry a serial number. After his death, the company he founded continued under the direction of his son Thomas (1870)
Stanley W.F. & Co.
Established at 19 ThaviesInn, Holborn Circus, E.C. London, was Zeiss agent for England. He built binoculars on his own, solely for the French market, to which he added several distinctive stylistic innovations. Among them, the black anodized base, an unusual feature, and simplified the device by making it more manageable.
It began in his atelier of 63 Saint Paul Church in London. In 1856 he settled at 406 and 66 on the London Strand. Later he would move to 54 Cornhill. He achieved great renown for the quality of his appliances. He was appointed Official Optician of the Government of the Majesty of her, of the rifle associations and also of the Artillery. In this collection there is number 15, a small drum-type microscope signed by him in 1850, another more complex specimen on display here, already manufactured at his new address, and finally a large specimen that can be seen below.
James Swift founded his company in 1857 at 15 Kings land Road, London. In 1872 he moved to 43 University Street. He was helped by his brother, Edgard, who made the lenses. In 1877 he began using the name James Swift & Son, three years later he changed his store to 81 Tottenham Court Road, London W, becoming known as’ University Optical Works. The catalogue that he produced in 1878 is published under the James Swift & Son brand, his son James Mandell Swift had already joined the company. Faced with the detection of copies of his models, he patented them and from thenon he inscribed his name and a small shield with a flying bird on them.
At the end of the 19th century the company was already well known for its petrological microscopes (see models 77, 78 and 80 in this collection). During the first half of the 20th century, he continued to sell these devices. In 1901, he made a model of a microscope, to be used especially on the ship “Discovery” during Scott’s expedition to Antarctica. This microscope has a slit on the stage to allow folding of the microscope tube and take up less space in its case.
Large petrological microscope signed «J. Swift & Son ‘, manufactured at 81 Tottenham Court Road, London (Swift Catalogue, 1891). This instrument was known as the Dick Model. It has an English foot “horseshoe” with the signature.
Cornelius Varley (1781-1873) was an optical instrument painter and designer. His greatest contribution to the history of microscopy was a very original system for focusing the image. Instead of doing it by lowering the lens, he achieved it by raising the stage upwards, by means of a lifting spring located on one side of the stage while the other remains practically fixed. It is the so-called Varley system. Furthermore, he described the “camera obscura” and the “camera lucida” that were widely used by painters. He was one of the founders of the Royal Society of Microscopy. In this collection the numbers 53 and 54 have this system.
Watson & Sons is the name of a firm that was in business for over a hundred years, from 1837 to 1948. In 1837, William Watson settled in London to manufacture optical material. Around 1840, the company went on to manufacture magic lanterns, slides, and related products. In 1868 the business changed its name to W. Watson & Son after the incorporation of Watson’s son. That same year the company moved to 313 High Holborn, London, where it remained until the 1940s. In the 1970s they began to manufacture photographic equipment as well, becoming one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of high-end photographic machines.
This collection shows different types of microscopes made from monoculars: Nos. 67, 67 and 79 of this collection. Also the Petrólogical nº 79, well into the twentieth century, they made very popular and inexpensive models, as well as the Kima model, nº 83 of this collection. The binoculars no. 90 and no. 94 are also appreciated, the latter an extraordinary specimen and one of the latest models manufactured.
In 1881 William Watson died. Starting in 1890, the business grew with the incorporation of the manufacture of instruments, optical glasses, special lamps for microscopes (No. 99 in this collection) and laboratory furniture. The factory was modernized in 1888, operating from then on as a real factory. In 1908 the company was renamed W. Watson & Sons Ltd. and in 1948 the business came to an end.
Microscopes: 1780 (nº 34a y nº 34b).
Famous British physician who described his “botanical” microscope in 1776. Later in 1790 he designed another portable device that was housed in a wooden case. When it was opened, the microscope was mounted automatically. William Withering FRS (17 March 1741 – 6 October 1799) was an English botanist, geologist, chemist, physician and first systematic investigator of the bioactivity of digitalis.
Withering was born in Wellington, Shropshire, the son of a surgeon. He trained as a physician and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh Medical School. He worked at Birmingham General Hospital from 1779. The story is that he noticed a person with dropsy (swelling from congestive heart failure) improve remarkably after taking a traditional herbal remedy; Withering became famous for recognising that the active ingredient in the mixture came from the foxglove plant. The active ingredient is now known as digoxin, after the plant’s scientific name. In 1785, Withering published An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses, which contained reports on clinical trials and notes on digitalis’s effects and toxicity. In 1787 he was elected a Fellow of the Linnaean Society in recognition of his contribution to botany. Subsequently, the plant Witheringia solanacea was named in his honour, and he became known on the continent of Europe as “The English Linnaeus”. The William Withering Chair in Medicine at the University of Birmingham Medical School is named after him, as is the medical school’s annual William Withering Lecture.
Woolley James & Sons
Microscopes 1860 (nº 47), 1890 (nº 47 a).
James Woolley was a very enterprising pharmacist who settled in Manchester around 1850. He developed a drug factory and was also a manufacturer and distributor of medical instruments and devices, including microscopes, of which he manufactured a limited number. He died in 1889 and was succeeded by his son James in the management of the company. From now on they are more dedicated to the manufacture of medicines and small sanitary instruments, which can now be seen in various museums in London. Microscope No. 47 in this collection is an extraordinary specimen made in 1890, as is No. 62.