Microscope (1 of 2)

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made in London

Postcard of Microscope (1 of 2).
© National Museums Scotland

Microscope (1 of 2)

This simple acquatic microscope was made in London between 1835 and 1840. In the 17th century it was recognised that the single lens simple microscope gave better microscopic vision than did the compound form, although it was far less convenient to use. Spherical aberration, a fuzziness of the image caused by the spherical curvature of the lens, was especially noticeable. David Brewster (1781-1868) suggested a lens with the sides ground away to form a grooved sphere, and his idea was publicised by Henry Coddington (d.1845), becoming known as the Coddington lens.

This simple acquatic microscope is set up on the lid of its box. It has an elongated rectangular stage, which is signed on the front edge: 'H. Powell / LONDON'. It is supplied with three single lenses and a Coddington lens, and among the accessories are a glass stage plate, a cork and wood stage insert, stage forceps and a stand condenser. The Coddington lens is shown, with its cover removed, on the lid of the box beside the assembled instrument.

Henry Powell made a few simple microscopes supplied with Coddington lenses, before he joined his brother-in-law, Peter Lealand, in partnership in 1841. The instrument derives mechanically from the 18th century acquatic design, sometimes used for looking at pond-life.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-000-160-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1979.48
Date: 1835 - 1840
Between 1835 and 1840
Material: Brass. Inscription: H. Powell LONDON
Dimensions: 195 mm x 160 mm x 200 mm
What: Microscope, simple
Who: Arthur Frank Microscope Collection
Coddington (Name of type of lens)
H. Powell, London (Maker)
Where: England, London
Description: Simple aquatic microscope in brass, with 3 single lenses, Coddington lens, accessories and case, signed by H. Powell of London, 1835 - 1840
  • For Powell: see Turner, G. L'E. Hugh Powell, James Smith and Andrew Ross: Makers of Microscopes. In: J. North (ed.), Mid-Nineteenth Century Scientists. Oxford, 1969, pp 104-138. 
  • Nuttall, R.H. (1979): "Microscopes from the Frank Collection 1800 - 1860" 
  • Nuttall, R.H. Microscopes from the Frank Collection 1800-1860. Jersey, 1979, p 35. 
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