How to structure the collection?

Although initially it seemed like an easy undertaking, time proved this to be the most complex and difficult task of the entire project. We believed that every microscope would have a manufacturer’s mark and a number relating to the production order. Nothing could be further from the truth since many of the microscopes are unmarked – only German devices and those of major English manufacturers are usually numbered. Some microscopes are made up of components from different workshops, so it is difficult to assign their authorship to a single manufacturer.

An additional challenge, and not the smallest one, is the copying of models between the different manufacturers without acknowledging the fact that they are a copy. The influence on the design is something to be expected, given that many of the apprentices of the famous manufacturers initially reproduce the models of their masters without acknowledgment once they become independent. An exception to this practice is some French manufacturers who proudly proclaim in their literature: «C. Verick special pupil of E. Hartnack».

In contrast, England was the pioneer in the registration of trademarks and patents, as an example we have shown the Cary-Gould model of the early 1800s (one of the oldest in the collection) alongside its patent registered in London.

Also, a problem added to the identification and dating function of a microscope is the maintenance in model making as the years go by and small variations are made. Thus the Beck & Beck “Star” model, of which we show four different examples manufactured for more than twenty years.

At the end, an eclectic classification was made taking into account as criteria: the manufacturer, the chronology, the country and the models that have a special design or that were created for a specific purpose. This can be verified in the index of the web.

Structure of the Collection

  1. The evolution of the microscope (SEIMC Collection).It includes the period from which this apparatus begins to be constituted as an instrument for the investigation and diagnosis of infectious diseases. In this group of 31 microscopes, the devices that have been used from 1730 to 1960 are exposed. The purpose that we have had in bringing together this set is to show the evolution of this device as an instrument to improve the study of Microbiology. These microscopes are located in Madrid at the headquarters of the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (SEIMC).
  2. Magnifying glasses and portable microscopes. In this part of the collection we expose 34 devices that were used to make observations directly in nature, by a cultured and interested society. These range from small magnifying glasses, simple and lightweight instruments to complex portable microscopes that were designed to be used on scientific expeditions.
  3. Compound microscopes: the golden age of microscopy. In these last 121 devices, we contemplate the evolution of the microscope from 1840 to 1940. We will see the improvement of optical systems, precision mechanics of observation stages, focusing systems, light condensers and above all the transformation of the microscope into a precision instrument with fine mechanics and extraordinary presentation. In this way, the microscope is also transformed into a socially highly valued scientific present or gift.

Specific groups of microscopes

In addition to the previous classification made based on their shape and characteristics, the microscopes have been grouped into several groups that shared some characteristic, particular design or specific purpose, as follows: