Reflecting microscope (1 of 2)

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made in London

Postcard of Reflecting microscope (1 of 2).
© National Museums Scotland

Reflecting microscope (1 of 2)

This brass reflecting microscope was made in London around 1830. By the early 19th century, it was generally realised that an achromatic microscope (one which produced images without colour fringes) would in principle be a substantial improvement over the uncorrected compound microscope, but there was a technical inability to manufacture the tiny achromatic lens-pairs needed. Some experimenters, including John Cuthbert (1783-1854) of London, investigated the possibilities of bypassing this problem by developing the reflecting microscope.

The microscope is engraved on one part of the tripe folding foot 'Carpenter's / Improved Compound Amician Microscope / 24 Regent St London'. It has an objective to the design of John Cuthbert, and a sprung stage. The body-tube is supported on a telescopic arm, fixed at the other end to the foot, which also supports a single-sided mirror for illuminating the stage. The photograph shows the instrument set up for use using the reflecting objective. It can be set up alternatively for conventional use.

John Cuthbert had a good reputation for his telescopes, and in about 1826 he turned to the reflecting microscope in an effort improve the optical image. A new design of the refracting objective published in 1830 by Joseph Jackson Lister made the reflecting microscope redundant: it had proved expensive to make and difficult to use. Philip Carpenter moved from Birmingham to London in about 1827, where he opened retail premises in Regent Street.

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Online ID: 000-180-000-938-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  
Date: Around 1830
  • For Carpenter, see Nuttall, R.H. Philip Carpenter and the 'Microcosm' exhibition: with a note on Carpenter and Westley's microscopes. Microscopy 33 (1976), pp 62-65. 
  • For the history of the reflecting microscope see: Bradbury, S. The Development of the Reflecting Microscope. Microscopy 31 (1968), pp 1-19. 
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