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probably made in Edinburgh

Postcard of Microscope.
© National Museums Scotland


This compound microscope was made in 1743, probably by John Finlayson, a mathematical instrument maker based in Edinburgh. Finlayson served as an engineer in the Jacobite artillery at Culloden.

The double-scroll shaped stand, which contains a divided drawer is made of ebony, with brass mounts and a brass-mounted, single sided reflector. The tubes are of papier-mache coloured green, with turned ivory mountings for the lenses and eyepiece. Accessories include a stage condenser, an extra objective and an ivory and glass box. There is a rectangular mahogany case (not shown) fitted with a drawer of mineral specimens. The stage is signed 'J. Finlayson, Edinr. 14 = 66/20 1743'.

Little is known about John Finlayson: he was the first instrument maker accepted as such accepted as a Burgess by the Town Council of Edinburgh in 1743, the same year that he made this microscope, and married Elizabeth Steven. He also visited the London promoter pf the microscope, Henry Baker (1698-1774). After the Rebellion of 1745, Finlayson drafted two maps, which were deemed to show Jacobite sympathies, leading to his arrest and imprisonment.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-044-405-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1928.88
Date: 1743
Material: Ebony stand, brass mounts, brass mounted reflector, papier mâché tubes, ivory mountings / mahogany case / glass, ivory /
What: Microscope, compound / case / microscope accessory / sample / mi
Subject: 22. PHYSICS, Light (Departmental Classification)
Who: J. Finlayson, Edinburgh (Instrument maker)
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh
Description: Compound microscope made by J. Finlayson, Edinburgh, 1743, with an ebony stand with a divided drawer containing several accessories, in a mahogany case with a drawer containing mineral samples
  • Bryden, D.J. 'Three Edinburgh Microscope Makers: John Finlayson, William Robertson and John Clark' in Book of the Old Edinburgh Club 33 (1972), pp 165-76 
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